You’ll never have to guess what is on Mark Turgeon’s mind.
The Maryland Terrapins head coach is honest to a fault and has no problem laying his soul bare for Terrapin nation regardless of the situation. At halftime his team held a comfortable 30-21 lead over the Monmouth Hawks at Comcast Center but his team had committed 14 turnovers against a marginal team and played their sloppiest half of the season.
You could have fried an egg on his forehead.
On his way to the locker room he told our radio audience that his team was “awful.” He went on to add that he “didn’t give a flip about the score” and was concerned completely about the quality of play he was seeing. He also mentioned that Monmouth had outhustled his team and had taken the fight to the home team.
No doubt that Turgeon peeled some paint off the locker room walls when he finally got back there with the team.
Predictably, his team came out of the locker room after the break and made quick work out of the Hawks and won the game handily, 71-38 to improve to 8-1 on the year. Afterward the 33-point margin did little to camouflage the warts that Turgeon and the crowd of over 9,000 saw firsthand.
In the last two games Turgeon had made changes to his starting lineup in an attempt to reward some freshmen whose minutes had dwindled. The move certainly resulted in more minutes for some talented freshmen but may have had mixed results in terms of developing the needed chemistry among the more veteran players.
Perhaps sensing that, he went back to the normal starting lineup with Pe’Shon Howard, Nick Faust, Dez Wells, James Padgett and Alex Len. The move paid immediate dividends and the Terps raced to a quick 10-2 lead after barely three minutes of action. In their first five possessions, Maryland had four layups and a short hook by Len against the smaller Hawks.
Then something happened.
Almost inexplicably, the first wave of Maryland subs brought both turnovers and unfathomable long jumpers against a team that simply could not defend them inside. The combination of the unforced errors and a little bit of Monmouth pluck resulted in the Hawks hanging in the game just enough to cause Turgeon and Maryland fans heartburn.
In their first eight games of the season, the Terps had averaged just over 19 assists per game. That is always good number but it’s made more remarkable by the fact that last year’s team averaged just over 10 assists per game. Turgeon and his staff (deservedly) have taken great pride in his team’s willingness to share the ball.
The problem tonight was that they also shared it with Monmouth and a number of folks in the first row at Comcast because they threw the ball all over the building tonight. Eventually they finished with 22 turnovers for the game versus 19 assists.
As Turgeon was quick to point out after the game, virtually every Terrapin player was culpable in the team’s struggles. Faust scored a season high 16 points but was guilty of 4 turnovers, many completely unforced. Len had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks but took major heat from Turgeon at halftime for being unassertive.
Maryland point guards had an interesting night. Starter Howard had 7 assists against 3 turnovers, certainly a decent enough stat line. His replacement, freshman Seth Allen, had a night to forget with 7 turnovers in just 15 minutes. He’s an explosive offensive talent and has a skill set that this team needs. That said, if the turnovers aren’t limited it’s anybody’s guess as to how Turgeon will handle his minutes.
As the Terps cruise through the next couple of games they will have plenty to work on during these regular routs. First and foremost, the turnovers are an ongoing problem. To their credit, they have a number of playmakers who aren’t afraid to try and make things happen.
That’s a good thing.
Ultimately, turnovers are empty possessions where you simply have given yourselves no chance to score. The better the competition, the more likely it is that empty possessions will cost you. Sometimes making plays is about making choices. In a player’s world any choice that might get you on SportsCenter is a good one; in a coach’s world you want to err on the side of caution.
Lastly, the division of playing time in the future on this team will be fascinating to watch. Turgeon has fully ten players he probably wants to keep happy. By the time the middle of the ACC season rolls around that number may be pared to 8 or 9. His most recent experiences with this team may just tell him that generous substitution patterns have led to a lack of continuity and production.
Time will tell if the democracy of the six weeks of the season will carry over into the last three months.