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January 28, 2014

Miami offers unique challenge

The source of the Maryland men's quick trigger tendencies on offense has varied throughout the season. Initially the blame fell on personnel, as the point guard-less Terps routinely fell into the trap of one-on-one basketball. Since Seth Allen's return things have been better, but offensive impatience has still recurred when the Terps have faced adversity, as they opt to play at a breakneck pace when things go south instead of displaying the collected demeanor the situation truly requires.

The matchup zone of Miami offers a different type of obstacle for the Terps on Wednesday night in College Park, though it could prove to be even more challenging for the Mark Turgeon's undisciplined bunch. The Hurricanes play at the slowest pace in the country, according Kenpom.com's adjusted tempo metrics. They want to take the air out of the ball on both ends of the court, making teams work against their zone defense and then utilizing every second of the shot clock on the other end.

"Miami is a team that will lull you to sleep," Jake Layman said after Tuesday afternoon practice. "So we need to wear them out when they're on defense in that zone. We got to be active, keep the ball moving, cutting, things like that."

Even against some of the best teams in the country, the final scoreboard for Jim Larranaga's team typically looks more like a high-scoring football game than a low-scoring basketball one. The Canes rank in the bottom 10 in the country in scoring offense at 61 points per game, but in the top 10 in scoring defense allowing only 59.3. They're 10-9 and 2-5 in conference, yet have taken No. 2 Syracuse to the wire twice this month.

The senior-led group that led the Canes to a No. 2 seed in last March's NCAA Tournament is gone, but their coach and the principles that got them there remain. The Hurricanes are not going to overwhelm anyone, Maryland included, with the talent on their roster, but in a way Miami is the perfect test for a Terps team who believes it made strides on offense over the weekend against Pitt.

"We just can't panic," Turgeon said. "It's a 40-minute game. There's a shot clock. We're going to have plenty of possessions. They're going to have plenty of possessions. You just can't get caught up in it. You just have to do the best you can on every possession."

"It's definitely less fun," Layman said about Miami's brand of basketball. "But it's a good opportunity for us to work on some stuff."

Part of what made Saturday's offensive performance encouraging was the resurgence of Layman, who had wilted under the bright lights of ACC play before managing 18 points against the Panthers. Miami's defense offers a unique challenge to Layman in particular, who must simultaneously adhere to a mandate for more aggressive play from his coach while not rushing anything against the matchup zone.

"I don't say it to many players but I say it to Jake," Turgeon said. "He's got to be a little more selfish on offense. I say it in front of the team. And he came out [against Pitt], the first time he had a look, he shot it. And he's getting to the foul line more, he's being more aggressive."

Perhaps no player has suffered more from the Terrapins' impatience than Layman, who disappears for long stretches when the offense goes in the tank. Turgeon would like his offense to run through the sophomore, but his game relies heavily on his teammates to get him the ball. When intense pressure results in ill-advised shots, Layman is left in the cold.

"Last game, I think offensively we were great," said Layman. "We moved the ball around and run our offense. Not just one ball screen and breaking it off. We really ran our offense and it shows we're getting better."

Layman speculated that the Terps are most impatient when they think they are the better team. Why wait to find the right shot when you can just blow by or rise over an inferior defender? Unless those shots are falling - which has been an infrequent occurence this season -- Miami will make 35 seconds on defense seem like an eternity for the Terrapins. For Turgeon, the best way to get back to .500 in the league is to give the Hurricanes a taste of their own medicine.

"Be a little patient against the match, and get the best shot you can. Don't settle for jump shots," he said. "Maturity and patience. Stick with it. If it takes 35 seconds then guard for 35 seconds."


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