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November 19, 2013

Terps' D headed in wrong direction

As Mark Turgeon sees it, the Terrapins defense has been steadily regressing for about a month now. They just gave up 90 points to Oregon State. The Beavers may have two impressive players and the backing of the President of the United States, but the fact remains that they haven't seen the NCAA Tournament since 1990.

Eleven days ago, Turgeon recalls being "irate" as he watched his Terps surrender 24 points in the paint to a smaller Connecticut team. After Sunday, he would probably kill for that type of interior defense.

The Beavers penetrated into the lane at will on Sunday. Once they got there, they finished at an alarming rate, leading to a 59.6 percent clip from the field. The Terps surrendered a ridiculous 48 points in the paint and sent Oregon State to the charity stripe 30 times. Turgeon's scouting report highlighted Roberto Nelson and Devon Collier. The Terps knew about the Beavers' star power; they prepared for it. But they could do nothing to stop it.

"We just can't let guys get in the paint like it's a walk in the park. It's got to be hard to get into the paint against us," Turgeon said on Tuesday. "We gave up 24 layups - 48 points in the paint. And that's not counting the times they got into the paint and we fouled them. I've never seen a stat like that on one of my teams."

Turgeon was shocked that his team has been such a sieve on the defensive end. About a month ago, the Terps hosted Villanova in a scrimmage. The coach said his guys "guarded like crazy" against the Wildcats. In an attempt to rectify what has gone drastically wrong, he showed his players some of the tape from that scrimmage earlier this week.

"The Villanova scrimmage -- there was nobody in the gym," said Charles Mitchell. "But the intensity from that film to other film shows a big difference to how well we wanted it on the defensive end. If we can play like that with nobody in the gym, we should be able to play like that with 17,000 people in the gym."

While breaking down the Oregon State tape would reveal few positives for the Terrapins, Sunday did serve as a mini-breakout for freshman Roddy Peters. The turbocharged point guard was excellent off the bench; elevating the tempo of the game with his ability to penetrate and either dish or finish. He finished with 10 points and 6 assists.

He wouldn't commit to it officially, but Turgeon indicated that Peters would probably start at point guard on Friday when the Terps take on Marist in the opening game of the Paradise Jam, held in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The position has been a bugaboo for the Terps all year, but Peters seemed like the only true option on the roster and Turgeon seems to have finally come to terms with it.

"I've given it a lot of thought," Turgeon said about starting the freshman. "He has got to get better defensively for us. Everyone is telling him how well he played, but there is two ends to the floor."

"There's a good chance [he starts]. I think it helps Dez [Wells], I think it helps our team. He was pretty good in a pretty big environment and I thought he handled it great. And he's getting better defensively."

Inserting an inexperienced defender into your starting lineup doesn't seem like much of a remedy for a hemorrhaging defense, but Peters has simply shown too much potential on the other end of the floor to keep off the court. The freshman may indeed stabilize things on the offensive end for the Terps, but at least for now, he seems to know where his opportunity areas lie.

"I have been watching film, so I have been seeing it," he said regarding his defensive shortcomings. "I watched yesterday, I saw a lot of things against Oregon State that I could have done better."

They already went to the Bahamas this summer on a team trip, so having fun in the sun is not high on the priority list for Turgeon's bunch. Regardless of the outcome, they will play three games in four nights, giving them ample opportunity to expedite the defensive improvement process they so desperately need.

Turgeon said the effort was not there on Sunday night, that his perimeter players were "standing straight up" on defense. If it continues, he indicated he'd be forced to find a way to spell his starters to ensure there is enough energy on both ends of the court, mentioning Damonte Dodd, Jonathan Graham and Varun Ram as players in line for more burn. At this point, Turgeon will do whatever it takes.

"We've scored 83 points and 77 points and lost in both of those games," Turgeon said. "I'd like to say I know we're going to guard well, because my teams usually do, but I guess I should say that I hope with our hard work this week that we guard this weekend."


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