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December 8, 2013

Turgeon considers shakeup for GW

After their first two losses last month, the Terps had the luxury of playing Abilene Christian and Marist in their next contests, essentially allowing them, while still licking their wounds, to get their game and confidence back. Today should be a little different.

Coming off a disheartening loss to Ohio State, Maryland (5-3) takes on a George Washington team that topped No. 20 Creighton a week ago at the Wooden Legacy in California. They also beat Miami to open the tournament before losing to No. 25 Marquette. The Colonials, at 7-1, are a veteran group that has been tested and will provide a real challenge to the Terps, who are only slight favorites.

Today's game is part of the BB&T Classic. Tip off is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C.

"They're really good," said Evan Smotrycz. "They've got some good experience and talent and guys aren't taking them lightly. Like I said, we'll be ready to play."

Because of the local connection, the Terps and Colonials have engaged in preseason scrimmages the past few years. Coming off prior losses, Mark Turgeon had the freedom to experiment against weaker opponents. The coach knows the Colonials don't fall into that category, but the team's performance against the Buckeyes may have given him no choice.

"I don't know who is starting tomorrow," said Turgeon, who inserted Varun Ram and Charles Mitchell into his lineup to start the second half in Columbus. The Terps were still shaky after halftime, but they protected the basketball better and Dez Wells looked very comfortable off the ball, scoring 17 of his 19 points. The team leader, Wells has been vocal since Wednesday's loss, stressing the idea that something has to change.

"Tremendously more confident," Ram said of Wells in the second half. "You saw it first hand, he was pretty much scoring layups at will. It's tough to do that as a point guard because you want to get everybody involved and run the offense, and that takes away from his ability to finish at the rim."

As Turgeon spoke with the media on Saturday, Ram put in some overtime after practice. He fed the ball into the post from the wing and relocated to the corner where the ball came back to him. The 5-foot-9 junior launched shot after shot from beyond the arc.

"I started him in the second half against Ohio State at Ohio State," Turgeon said. "I'm obviously not afraid to play Varun. He's a good defender too. He's our most complete point guard right now."

Turgeon wouldn't commit to anything, but it sounds like Ram is in line for a bump in playing time. He currently is averaging 11.3 minutes per game, compared to 19.8 for fellow point guard Roddy Peters, who figures to be Ram's biggest competition for time on the court. Peters, loaded with talent and court vision, has been a turnover machine so far in his freshman year.

"That said, I think Roddy has tremendous upside so you got to make sure both are playing with confidence and helping our team," Turgeon said.

Ram saw 17 minutes against the Buckeyes. If he gets similar burn today, it will be because of his defensive intensity and his ability to ensure Maryland's offense operates according to plan. Ten first half turnovers that resulted in 18 points for Ohio State prompted Ram's promotion in the second half. The Terps only gave it away four times after halftime.

The undersized junior knows his role and is heady enough to differentiate between his strengths and weaknesses. But the Division III transfer also knows that at this level of competition, he has to be able to hit open shots or he will quickly end up back on the bench.

"If I'm out there, I don't want it to be playing four on five," he said. "I'm not really out there all the time for offense. But that said, for the offense to work I need to hit open shots."

Of course, it was the injury to Seth Allen that set off the musical chairs at the point guard position in College Park. Turgeon said on Saturday that Allen is "doing great" and remains on schedule to return 8-10 weeks from his injury, which probably means we'll see him in early January.

Until then, Turgeon will be forced to play mad scientist at a position that he once manned at Kansas under Larry Brown. But the coach also said on Saturday that with the game on the line, we should still expect to see Wells with the ball in his hands.

"Do we change everything?" he asked. "Absolutely not. Do you try to figure things out? Yeah you always do that with wins or losses."


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