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December 12, 2013

Numbers don't lie for Terps

So much has gone sideways for the Terps in their first nine games; it is hard for Mark Turgeon to address problem areas without reeling off a list. But after he watches the tape and considers the numbers, his team's shortcomings become pretty clear.

"Eighteen [turnovers] the other day and shoot 39 percent, and they shoot 36 free throws," Turgeon said Wednesday referring to his team's loss to George Washington on Sunday. "It's hard to win those games. It's amazing it was even as close as it was."

The coach brings up a good point. The turnovers, the free throw discrepancy and the defense have been issues for Maryland all year. More recently, the offense has stalled. Sunday was a tipping point.

The Terps had a grand total of two assists in the first half against George Washington and finished the night with seven. Meanwhile, they turned the ball over 18 times, further exposing a trend that has been killing them all year. They haven't been making shots of late, but the overall numbers indicate that this has been a significant problem that must be rectified if Turgeon's bunch plans on making any noise in ACC play.

Maryland is averaging 12 assists and 14 turnovers per game, which calculates out to an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.86, good for 273rd in the country. Hampered with point guard issues, no one is expecting that number to be a strong one for the Terps, but bringing it to a respectable level should do wonders for an offense that is currently struggling with its identity.

"I don't think we're a two-to-one team. I don't know if we're capable of that," Turgeon said. He's right. In fact, Notre Dame is the only team in the country with a ratio over two, but the Terps still must improve. "We haven't been making shots. A lot of our points have been coming on fast breaks and second chance points, so it's tough to get assists there."

"We got to get the turnovers down," he added. "Our guys know it; we continue to talk about it. We're trying to figure it out."

While they're at it, they may want to work on their free throw issues as well. The Terps are shooting an alarming 62.6 percent from the line (313th in the nation), but they're also allowing their opponent to get to the line too much. Turgeon indicated that one of their goals is to make more free throws than their opponents take, which seems reasonably logical considering the Terps tend to have size and depth advantages over many of their opponents.

To say the least, Maryland hasn't come close to achieving that goal. They've knocked down 124 free throws this year and have allowed their opponents to take 193. In fact, their opponents have converted more attempts from the charity stripe (136) than the Terps have. The numbers only get worse if you filter them down on games against legitimate competition. Remember, Abilene Christian attempted exactly zero free throws in College Park.

"Hopefully we can get there more," Turgeon said. "Hopefully we can make more free throws. It's hard when you get outscored 10 at the line, eight at the line, 12 at the line. It's just been one of those years."

The good news is that Turgeon and the Terps are openly aware of their opportunity areas and seem intent on fixing them. The bad news is they have a long way to go to do so.

Terps head to Boston

Speaking of the charity stripe, Maryland travels to Boston College tonight to take on the best free throw shooting team in the country in their ACC opener. The Eagles shoot 80.8 percent from the line and get there a reasonable amount (22 attempts per game) for a team that lives and dies by the three point shot. Resisting on a reach or a low percentage block will be of the utmost importance against the Eagles, and the Terps know it.

"We've talked about it," Turgeon said, adding that he's shown his guys tape on BC's shooters from the free throw line. "We tried to play without fouling against GW too, but the new rules make it a little tougher…. Hopefully we can play without fouling, because that is going to be a big part of the game."

The Eagles make no secret of what they want to do. They've launched 215 shots from beyond the arc this season, which is the 30th most in the nation. Perhaps because of it, their offense also ranks 30th in efficiency and 112th in scoring average (76.4 points per game).

"We know that they're going to make some threes," said Jake Layman, who has made 24 of his own triples this year. "We got to know that we can't hang our heads and we got to know that there will be a lot of long rebounds, so we've got to watch out for that."

Averaging a gaudy 19.2 points per night, BC point guard Olivier Hanlan has the ability to kill teams from the outside (36 percent from deep on 50 attempts) or get into the lane. He's made 55 free throw attempts, which is almost more than twice Maryland's leader in makes (Dez Wells with 29). Junior forward Ryan Anderson is BC's other threat, averaging 18 points per night and shooting a healthy 80.6 percent from the line.

Like Maryland, the Eagles have played UConn and Providence tough, but they have plenty of warts. BC averages only 30 rebounds per night, which is almost dead last in the nation (341st to be exact). They give up 80.6 points per game and are ranked 265th in defensive efficiency. If the Terps' post players - who "got their tails kicked on Sunday" according to Turgeon - and the Terps offense are ever going to bust out, tonight should be the night.

Turgeon continues to play mad scientist

About a week ago, Turgeon called Varun Ram the team's "most complete point guard." He started the scrappy junior against George Washington after he played a critical role in their success at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. After one game, it seems that experiment has already been aborted.

"Roddy is our best point guard offensively," Turgeon said on Wednesday, adding that Ram did not play well against the Colonials. "Roddy right now is our best option. It's pretty clear-cut."

Turgeon didn't commit to changing his starting lineup once again, but what is also clear-cut is that Wells should now spend the majority of his time where he belongs.

"I think Dez is a better player because he is off the ball now," Turgeon said. "Dez is still going to play a little bit of point, but not as much."

Wells is second on the team in scoring at 13.9 points per game, but since Turgeon has given more time to Peters and Ram, he has become noticeably more reliable on the offensive end. In early season games against Abilene Christian and Marist, Wells made only two shots and attempted less than 10. Since, he has scored in double figures in five straight.

Another alteration that fans should expect is more playing time for Penn State transfer Jonathan Graham. Graham made the most of his 15 minutes on Sunday, providing energy in buckets to the tune of five points, three blocks and five rebounds. He also was 3-for-3 from the charity stripe, which certainly doesn't hurt considering Maryland's issues at the free throw line.

"Whether it's me playing five minutes or me playing 15 minutes or me not playing at all, I came here to help this team win games and get where Maryland needs to be," Graham said.

It's possible that Graham could provide what many had hoped Damonte Dodd would. With four losses already in row, the Terps really don't have time to be developing raw freshman in meaningful games. Graham blocked three shots in 15 minutes. To put that number in perspective, Maryland only has one player that is currently averaging over a block per game, and his name is Jake Layman.

"That is my way of playing," Graham said. "That is my way of winning. You've got to be tough on defense. You've got to be gritty. You've got to show the other team that you're willing to play defense for however long it takes."

Again, Turgeon gave no indication on if he would shuffle Graham into a starting role, only that the junior had earned more minutes. If he can continue to provide rim protection and energy, he might be the spark the Terps need to avoid slow starts or defensive lapses. He's off to a good start.

"John was great," Turgeon said. "John changed everything for us. John, by playing hard, rubbed off on everybody else. John is going to play early and often if he plays well on Thursday."


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