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January 31, 2014

Terps in search of answers on D

Not the basking type, Dez Wells relived his game-winner against Miami only a time or two on Wednesday night. It wasn't due to a dearth of availability, as clips of his 22-foot dagger flooded social media moments after it splashed through the net.

Wells brought a confident but humble demeanor to the postgame festivities and displayed much of the same on Friday afternoon at the Comcast Center. Asked what it was like to put his team on his back, the junior revealed the most rewarding result of his last-minute heroics.

"To put a smile on Coach Turgeon's face," he said. "Because at the end of day, happy coach, happy season."

Head coach Mark Turgeon remains under fire as Maryland hobbles along at 12-9 (4-4 in the ACC), sneaking past some of the teams they should beat and conquering absolutely none of the teams they shouldn't. With the direction of the program in question, Turgeon has looked flustered at times, struggling to catch his breath amidst a condensing schedule that has subsequently produced an increasing list of concerns.

For only the second time in six games, Wells sent his coach home happy on Wednesday night. Like his star player, Turgeon briefly revels in success, usually enjoying a postgame meal and some television after wins before moving onto the next opponent. But opportunities for relaxation - "You try to enjoy it for 30 minutes," Turgeon said - have been few and far between over the past few months.

In fact, perhaps still feeling the effects of the Wells-provided euphoria, Turgeon decided to change things up this week as Maryland approached Saturday afternoon's matchup with Virginia Tech. Fearful that his negativity was tainting group film sessions, the third-year coach opted to supervise while his staff of assistants conducted player-centric reviews of game tape.

"We had a coach get with two or three players individually," Turgeon explained. "Because I get a little too negative sometimes when we do it as a group. This way it can be a little more constructive criticism."

As the coach immediately clarified, there is little doubt that his intentions have also been constructive, but it's easy to forget that Turgeon played point guard in his day and has since been a defensive-minded coach. With his offense rudderless and his defense a sieve for much of the year, it sounds like frustration may have inhibited teaching over the past few months.

"He sometimes he feels like he can be too negative," Wells said. "But that's his job. He has to stay on us, stay on top of us. I feel like him breaking us up into groups was a great idea."

"It is more tuned to what you need to do individually," Evan Smotrycz said. "Sometimes in group film sessions coach might address one thing a guy did and other guys might tune out a bit. When it's one-on-one the coach can address you individually and look you in the eyes and tell you what you really want to know."

Maryland cannot afford to be complacent with the current state of their defense. The offense has excelled in the four halves since the N.C. State catastrophe and the Terps are 1-1 to show for it, with the win necessitating a final-second rescue from Wells.

Turgeon described his team's preventative shortcomings as "fixable" after Miami shot 50 percent. The Canes utilized an endless string of ball screens - Turgeon estimated around three per possession - to free up their guards. The Terps prepared for it and, at times, executed the "hard show" - when the big jumps out around the screen to force the ball handler away from the rim in order to buy time for the recovering defender - they've been taught in practice. But the results speak for themselves.

"Every game we want the bigs to beat us, not the guards," Turgeon said. "Well against Miami, the guards almost beat us."

If limiting the effectiveness from the perimeter has been Maryland's defensive strategy all season, they're doing a horrible job of executing it. Guards have torched the Terps this season, with Miami's tandem of Manu Lecomte and Rion Brown - combining for 44 points on 13 of 19 shooting - the latest benefactors. If the offense continues to hum, it's the one goliath obstacle between Turgeon and his next full stomach.

"Whenever we win I can eat and enjoy it," he said. "When we lose I don't eat as well."


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