While Maryland easily handled the South Carolina State Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon, they still encountered some struggles offensively. While the game was never really in doubt, despite the semi-close score, SCSU was able to cause Maryland some frustrations throughout the game.
"It wasn't really a game that you could get into very easily" head coach Mark Turgeon said.
SCSU did their best to dictate the tempo of the game while on offense, holding and passing the ball at the top of the key and often waiting until the final ten seconds on the shot clock before they'd attempt a basket.
"In the beginning it was frustrating but coach really told us to be mentally tough because a lot of teams are going to try to do that to us, so we have to mature and learn how to guard at the end of a shot clock" freshman guard Seth Allen said. Allen, who finished with five assists and three points, also said that a number of shots that normally fall just weren't today. "Guys weren't really hitting shots. The zone was funky - it was weird. We haven't really played against a zone like that. It wasn't a good zone. We were so wide open. It through off your rhythm and we weren't really hitting shots."
Maryland shot just 37.3% for the game while SCSU shot an even worse 32.1%.
"Our field goal percentage defense was really good again" Turgeon said. "They made quite a few shots late. Besides that it wasn't really a fun game to be a part of to be honest"
One area where Maryland did improve on today was their turnovers, which have caused Mark Turgeon heartburn throughout the season.
"We worked on it and it was better" Turgeon said. "Our guards were actually pretty good last game. If you look at the assists to turnovers our guards were fine, but our bigs were bad. Shaq had two to start the second half; Charles had two early, he wasn't ready to play. That's four of our 11 and that just shouldn't happen. Those turnovers we can clean up. We will continue to get better. We are doing some things in practice that I think will help us. Guys are conscious with it, so I was happy with it."
When I asked Seth Allen about how the team has worked on cutting down turnovers in practice, he revealed Mark Turgeon's new strategy to combat what has arguably been their biggest problem this season; push ups.
"In practice now, when someone turns the ball over, they have to do five push ups" Allen revealed, while laughing. "Unless you want to do push ups all practice, you want to take care of the ball. Push ups are hard when you're tired."
One interesting component of the game was the play of freshman forward Charles Mitchell. After starting the game, Mitchell played only eight minutes in the first half and didn't play in the second. Fellow freshman Shaquille Cleare started the 2nd half in his place.
When asked about Mitchell after the game, head coach Mark Turgeon simply said that Mitchell wasn't ready to play.
Sophomore center Alex Len was Maryland's leading scorer with 13 points. He also had six rebounds and two assists. Len said Maryland's game plan was to play inside out, but SCSU's zone defense stopped them.
"We tried to play inside out, but it didn't really work. Logan helped us a lot. He helps to space us out a little bit so it's easier for the big guys."
While many expected this game to be a larger margin of victory for Maryland, it was another win, their eight in a row, and matches their longest win streak since the 2006-2007 season.
Mark Turgeon summed it up best in his opening statement - "It's a win."
Move on, continue to get better, and get ready for ACC play. For now, Maryland finds itself sitting at 8-1 and on track to enter conference play 11-1, with their only loss being to Kentucky at a neutral court. I'll take it.