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December 29, 2013
Terps face Tulsa, may get Allen back
The last we heard from Mark Turgeon, the third year coach stood at the postgame podium in bewilderment after suffering a devastating loss at home to mid-major Boston University. He conceded he didn't have the answers. He looked desperate for help.
On Sunday, he just might get it in the form of Seth Allen, whose November foot injury was the first in a series of events that's led to a disappointing 7-5 start for a Maryland team that had preseason NCAA Tournament hopes.
Allen underwent an X-ray on Friday and was cleared to practice by doctors, which he's done the past two days. If Allen's foot responds well, Turgeon said he could get playing time in both halves against Danny Manning's Tulsa squad on Sunday night.
"For the first day, he looked pretty good," Turgeon said on Saturday. "He's tired obviously. He's out of shape, but he looked pretty good. We'll see. Hopefully he won't get sore today and won't be sore tomorrow and we can get try him a few minutes. If not, if he's sore, we won't play him."
Allen sustained the broken foot a little over eight weeks ago, putting him squarely within the 8-10 week timetable that was originally given for his return. After a promising freshman season, the improvement Allen displayed in fall practice was one of the storylines of the preseason. Losers of three of their last five, the Terps desperately need him.
"It's going to be a process," Turgeon said. "I don't think we can expect him to play a lot of minutes tomorrow and be fantastic. If he's not sore, if everything goes good, we can get him a few minutes each half and go from there."
The loss to BU was eight days ago, and the players received five days off for the holidays. Ideally, the refreshed and heavily favored Terps will roll over 4-8 Tulsa, and Turgeon will have the freedom to give Allen the minutes he needs, assuming he is healthy enough to play.
But as we've seen this season, that might be harder than it sounds. Without Allen, the Terps have lacked depth, as Turgeon himself admitted last week. Unable to pull away from teams like Florida Atlantic and Abilene Christian, the coach hasn't been able to conduct the type of roster experimentation necessary to find out which of his reserves belong on the floor.
The result has been a turnover-prone team that does not defend well, which will undoubtedly become bigger problems once the ACC is in full swing.
"We've got a long ways to go," Turgeon said. "It's been pretty obvious with the way we're playing."
He added: "I think there are two things we have to get better at, and we've worked on them these past two days. One of them is taking care of the ball. It's absolutely hurt us. And just defending and rebounding better. You can't score 83 at home and 77 at home and lose those two games."
Maryland's turnover statistics are staggering. Giving the ball away 13.8 times per game, the Terps rank 255th in the nation. They turn it over on 19.9 percent of their possessions, which ranks an equally pathetic 248th.
While Allen should help, Turgeon knows the rest of the roster still must improve. Terps players that have been loose with the ball in practice have been forced to run the student section steps after turnovers. On Saturday, they ran '33s', which consist of sprinting the length of the court six times in under 33 seconds.
In Tulsa, Maryland gets a team that they should be able to handle. The Golden Hurricane doesn't excel in any particular part of the game, ranking 205th in the nation in scoring offense and 264th in scoring defense. They shoot a paltry 43 percent from the field and grab merely 34.6 boards per game.
And while the Comcast Center hasn't exactly been imposing lately, Tulsa is 0-4 on the road this season. But they have an emerging coach in Manning, who was a teammate of Turgeon's at Kansas and won the Maryland coach a ring in 1988 when Turgeon was a graduate assistant.
"You don't ever want to play against friends," Turgeon said. "If you look at Danny's schedule, he's not afraid to schedule. They've played some pretty tough teams. We thought they were going to be pretty good, which they still have a chance to be. They play hard. Danny is doing a nice job with them."
Tulsa hung with then-ranked Creighton in late November on the road and got blown out by a potent Wichita State squad a few days prior. Turgeon says the Terps are mentally fresh after their time off, making Sunday night's game look like a should-win. But to this point, nothing has come easy for Maryland this year.
"It's not going to change because you take five days off and come back," Turgeon said.