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November 17, 2013
Obama on hand for Terps-Beavers
Desperate to solve his team's first half woes, Mark Turgeon decided to bring in the President of the United States to ensure his Terps get off to a quick start against Oregon State on Sunday evening.
Ok, not really. But if the Terps plod out of the gates on Sunday with President Barack Obama in attendance - Beavers head coach Craig Robinson is Obama's brother-in-law - then Turgeon can conclude that the first two games of the season weren't just a blip on the radar.
Maryland turned the ball over early and often against UConn in their opener leading to a 12-point halftime deficit. A lack of energy was the culprit on Wednesday, as the Terps led overmatched Abilene Christian by a mere point at the half. Both times they surged in the second half, but the Terps don't want to make a habit out of spotting their opponents a handful of buckets.
"We weren't ready to play," forward Evan Smotrycz said about Wednesday. "We just didn't have the right mindset. We should have just jumped on them right from the start so it wasn't a game, but you learn."
Turgeon conceded that he didn't do a ton of preparation in practice that was specific to Abilene Christian. The Wildcats ran a similar offense to Maryland and were significantly less talented, which probably led to the Terps overlooking them. This week has been a little different.
The Beavers have the size to bang with Maryland. Depending on how much 6-foot-8 forward Devon Collier plays - he was suspended for the team's first game - Turgeon said he could use Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare on the floor together at times. At 6-foot-10, Angus Brandt patrols the paint for Oregon State while guard Roberto Nelson has a combined 60 points in the Beavers' first two games and will draw Terps' stopper Nick Faust.
Meanwhile, Maryland leader Dez Wells has yet to get on track this year. After three quick turnovers Wednesday, he was pulled from the game and then benched into the second half after he and Turgeon had words. After sliding to point guard, he's averaging only 8.5 points through two contests after leading the team in scoring last year.
"I've got a great relationship with Dez," Turgeon said. "The good thing for me is I coached one year in the NBA, so I know how to react to certain situations. It is just going to strengthen our relationship even more."
Turgeon will stick with Wells at point but will continue to employ freshman Roddy Peters to move him off the ball. The point guard position has been the topic du jour ever since Seth Allen broke his foot, but the Maryland coach insisted this week that he sees a light at the end of the tunnel with Wells, Peters and 5-foot-9 reserve Varun Ram.
"I think it's in better shape - even with Seth hurt - than it was last year at this time," he said. "I really believe that. You guys might think I'm crazy. But I think it's going to be a good position for us."
Oregon State utilizes their length to their advantage within their zone defense, so the Terps will need Wells and his ability to penetrate on Sunday. They'll also need Jake Layman, their best player this year, to stay hot from deep. Layman bruised his thigh earlier this week and didn't start last game, but Turgeon indicated he should be fine for Sunday.
Layman is averaging 16 points in the Terps first two games, and has shown an ability to get hot quick. On Wednesday he scored 14 of 16 points for Maryland to put the game away. He's drained six treys so far on the year and has been able to get to the rim with an improving floor game.
"He's just playing well," Turgeon said. "Jake's got a lot of confidence and guys find him, so he makes good plays. He is talking more. I remember last year this time Jake couldn't run a play right and he came out the other day and was like, 'Guys aren't running the plays coach.' So he not only knows his position, he knows all the other positions. It's pretty amazing in a year how far the kid has come."
Turgeon knows firsthand what it's like to practice or play in front of the President of the United States. In his time with the Philadelphia 76ers, former President George H. W. Bush attended a game. Bush and his son, former President George W. Bush, are both actively involved at Texas A&M, Turgeon's last stop before Maryland, and would routinely visit Aggies basketball practice.
Considering how Maryland started their first two games and the circumstances on Sunday, it'd be shocking if they didn't come out against Oregon State like their hair is on fire.
"It'll be pretty cool for everybody - their team and our team," Turgeon said. "Hopefully the teams play even harder."
Cleare off to a slow start
Turgeon has turned to Mitchell at halftime in both games, starting him over an ineffective Cleare, who has yet to find his footing this season. While the Bahaman center has excelled in practice, it has yet to show when the lights are on.
"He's been practicing really well," Smotrycz said. "So hopefully it can translate to the game and he can have a breakout moment."
Cleare's presence could prove pivotal on Sunday given the size of the visiting Beavers. All indications are that he will get his third consecutive start.
"I'm telling you guys, it's coming," Turgeon said. "He's been doing it in practice. I've been doing this long enough to know it's going to carry over. I just hope it's Sunday at six o'clock for him. He needs some confidence."