Terps Eager For 1st 'Game Environment' Test

Maryland opens its exhibition season Nov. 1 against San Francisco State at 2 p.m. at the Comcast Center.

In exactly two weeks Maryland’s 2014-15 regular season will commence against Wagner in College Park, Md., but the Terps do have two exhibitions leading up to the opener. The first of which is Nov. 1 against San Francisco State at 2 p.m. at the Comcast Center, giving UMD fans their first glimpse at the new-look Terps, who have a new point guard, center and guard/wing to pair with mainstays Dez Wells (14.9 points per game last year) and Jake Layman (11.7 points per game).

“We’re playing two public scrimmages this year, which I think that’s good for this team, to get in front of crowds and be in that environment as we get ready for the regular season,” said Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon, whose team finished 17-15 last season. “We’ve had good practices, [and] guys are continuing to get a little bit better.”

Turgeon still didn’t know his starting five as of mid-afternoon Oct. 31, although he acknowledged Wells, Layman and freshman point Romelo Trimble would likely be among the first five. Sophomore center/power forward Damonte Dodd will probably man the post, with Jonathan Graham rotating in. And with Evan Smotrycz out with a broken foot (Turgeon did not update his status, simply saying he’s “coming along”), transfer guard Richaud Pack should see plenty of minutes, along with freshmen Jared Nickens and Dion Wiley.

“I’ll see how practice goes [Oct. 31] and meet with my staff,” Turgeon said. “We’ll play multiple guys, and have multiple lineups [Nov. 1].”

The Terps’ headman said he’s seen an uptick defensively from his squad. Maryland struggled on that end of the floor in 2013-14, allowing their ACC foes to score almost 69 points per game, to shoot 42 percent from the floor, and to average 35 rebounds per game.

“Defensively we’ve worked hard… hopefully we can play well on that end of the floor [Nov. 1],” Turgeon said. “We still have work to do; we’re a work in progress. Rebounding is something we’ve talked about a lot.”

"Coach Turgeon has preached, preached, preached that defense is going to be our main objective the whole year,” Trimble said on media day. “At first, we were like, ‘We’re all scorers and we just want to score and defense comes last,’ but now defense is a priority to us. Now defense comes first.”

One of the hot offseason topics, though, has been Maryland’s new offense, likely headed by the freshman Trimble. Turgeon implemented a pseudo-motion system this year, although he never really detailed exactly what that would entail. Nov. 1 should be fans’ first opportunity to see how Trimble and the Terps handle it. Maryland averaged just over 70 points, but turned the ball over almost 13 times a night and tallied only 11.6 assists per game last season, so regardless of what the offense looks like, Turgeon wants to see his team improve in those key areas.

“I think we’ re making too much of the motion offense. We’re still running our sets, we’re still running our secondary breaks. [But] it allows our players to have spacing and it allows us to get everybody involved in the offense, which is key,” Turgeon said. “Whenever you put in a so-called motion offense – it’s not a true motion offense – it takes awhile to get used to it and understand it. But the guys have done a really nice job with it. The key, in any offense you run, is shot selection and taking care of the basketball, so hopefully that’s something we’ll be able to do.”

Trimble should help the Terps in the latter area, as he's focused on being a pass-first point guard. That said, he's still a freshman and will undoubtedly make his share of first-year mistakes.

“When I first got here, I was very passive. I wasn’t aggressive,” Trimble said on media day. “Coach Turgeon and the coaching staff told me that I need to score more. So as the summer went on, I started learning how to score and learning when to shoot the ball and when not to shoot the ball. Now, I’m playing just like myself.”

Maryland will test said offense against a San Francisco State squad that primarily plays zone. Turgeon admitted his Terps haven’t focused as much on attacking zone defenses in practice, so he’s curious to see how his team responds.

“We have worked on [zone], but we haven’t worked on it a lot. We’ll see a little bit of zone, a little bit of man [Nov. 1], so we’ll see how it goes,” Turgeon said. “They play multiple zones to try to get you [off] kilter. In the end you have to get second chance points, so hopefully we’ll rebound well [offensively].

“I do think we have a few more shooters [to beat a zone], but shooters have got to make the shots. We pass the ball well -- a lot of guys pass it well. That’s the key in any offense, a zone offense too.”

San Francisco State is coming off a 14-12 campaign and lost its top four leading scorers. Their leading returner is senior forward Udun Osakue, a 6-6, 200-pounder who averaged 6.7 points and 4.5 rebounds last year.

The opponent, though, isn’t as much of a concern for the Terps. Mainly, Turgeon wants to see his players develop chemistry, continue to make strides on both ends of the floor and to carry over practice habits into a game environment.

“I think you want to play somewhat like you’ve been practicing. What I mean by that is being consistent. If you’re sharing the ball well in practice, you want that to continue. If you’re communicating well on defense in practice, you want that to continue in the game. If you’re a great help defense team in practice, you want that to continue,” Turgeon said. “We don’t want to see game slippage. You’re going to have [slippage], because guys are a little bit nervous and it’s a different environment. But just stay close to the way we’ve been playing in practice and settling in and getting used to it.

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