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December 20, 2013

Refreshed Terps host BU

Donning his Maryland practice reds and rehydrating with a green Gatorade, Dez Wells looked like a walking endorsement of Christmas after Friday afternoon's practice. Fortunately for the junior guard, the color choice of his refreshment was unintentional.

"I can't say the C-word," joked a sheepish Wells. "I am not allowed to say the C-word by Coach Turgeon."

With finals nearly behind them and the holiday break a mere 24 hours away, Mark Turgeon, one win from reaching 300 for his career, strategically installed a new team rule this week: as of Saturday morning, no talk of Christmas until the Terps (7-4) have completed their 1 p.m. matinee against Boston University.

After disposing of Florida Atlantic last Saturday, the players have been inundated with their studies most of this week. Turgeon gave them Sunday and Wednesday off, and in between held two light practices before going hard to close out the week. All he is asking in return is their undivided focus for two hours on Saturday.

"They're packing their bags, they haven't been home since August, they're all excited," said Turgeon, who expects his team to be refreshed but is wary of a letdown. "We wake up tomorrow, I cannot hear the word Christmas until the game is over from anybody."

The Terps host a Terriers (6-5) team that was picked by many to win the Patriot League. Their two leading scorers - point guard Maurice Watson Jr. (14.6 points per game) and forward Dom Morris (12.2 points per game) - are both shooting over 57 percent from the field.

BU visited Gampel Pavilion last month and hung with UConn for 25 minutes before the Huskies pulled away. By comparison, entering the Comcast Center on a Saturday when most of the student body is already on vacation should seem like a walk in the park.

"Their guards are good. Their team is good," Turgeon said. "It's the reason we scheduled them, because we knew they were going to be really good."

The Terps spent what little practice time they had this week polishing up their zone offense, which should come in handy against the undersized Terriers. Florida Atlantic employed a zone that gave Maryland fits in the first half, as the overeager Terps shot 35.3 percent and continuously hoisted contested shots from the outside. They improved as the game went on, but not enough to avoid a slew of teaching points this week.

"Coach's biggest thing for us was to get the ball inside, getting the post touches in our zone offense," said Jake Layman, who bailed the Terps out with 22 on Saturday. "When we play inside-out against a zone, it opens up shots for us."

Every zone has soft spots, and no Terrapin seemed to be better at finding them against Florida Atlantic than Roddy Peters, who finished the game with five assists in 19 minutes and kick-started the Maryland offense in the opening moments of the second half.

Still, Turgeon opted to play Nick Faust over Peters for stretches against the Owls, preferring the veteran's shooting to the slippery freshman's penetrating ability. With 40 minutes of tape to study and nearly a week to mull it over, Turgeon conceded that he should have stuck with Peters.

"In hindsight, that was a mistake on my part because our zone offense was much better when Roddy was in the game," Turgeon said. "I told the team that. I apologized to Roddy. He should have played more minutes."

Peters was making his second straight start and coming off his best performance of the year against Boston College. Despite the hiccup, the freshman's confidence is apparently still at a season-high.

"I think he's right where he needs to be right now," said Layman, adding that Peters is ahead of where he was as a freshman a year ago. "We expect a lot out of him.
His confidence is really high right now. You can tell at practice; he's energetic, he's talking, he's moving a lot."

They've had their problems on defense, but the Terps are capable offensively. They expect to see zone early and often against BU and won't be surprised if it becomes a trend for their opponents moving forward. Turgeon indicated that he wouldn't hesitate to leave the reins of his offense in his freshman's hands if and when the Terriers drop into a zone.

If Peters continues on his upward trend and Turgeon stays true to his word, the Terps should roll, in turn awarding their coach a milestone win before they disseminate around the country for some much-needed time off. Until then, Turgeon has simply requested they concentrate on the task at hand.

"He's being a Grinch right now but after tomorrow he'll be better," said a grinning Wells.


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