One of the best qualities about Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon is his honesty. Win or lose, he's going to tell you how he thinks his team played, what they did right and what they did wrong. On Wednesday evening, following his team's last second win over #14 NC State at the Comcast Center, Turgeon spoke about his young team and their recent offensive struggles:
"I don't know what the problem is offensively. I thought we executed better tonight, we were much more patient, but we just couldn't finish and we weren't getting to the foul line. We played with a lot of toughness. Our post defense was great; transition was okay, it wasn't quite good enough, but they are good. It was a hard-fought win. When you are young starting two freshmen, two sophomores, and a sophomore who wasn't here last year it isn't going to be easy. I am really happy for the guys because I have been on them very hard since Florida State."
Turgeon also discussed how his young team has progressed in tight games when they had the opportunity to take the last shot:
"The last three games we haven't gotten to the foul line. It was a grinder; it was a grinder against Florida State and Miami, we were used to it. Our guys were determined to come out on top. We got a little bit lucky but we will take it."
After losing two close games against Florida State and Miami, Maryland again found themselves in a grind it out type of game, one in which they continued to struggle offensively. Since scoring 94 points, their second highest total of the season, in a win over Virginia Tech at home of January 5th, Maryland has averaged just over 53 points per game, going 1-2 during that stretch.
"This is where we are right now. I don't know what the problem is offensively" Turgeon said. "I thought we executed better tonight, we were much more patient, but we just couldn't finish and we weren't getting to the foul line. The last three games we haven't gotten to the foul line. It was a grinder; it was a grinder against Florida State and Miami, we were used to it. Our guys were determined to come out on top. We got a little bit lucky but we will take it."
Prior to their offensive struggles during their last three games, the Terps were attempting an average of 22.7 free throws per game. In their last three games, Maryland has only had 40 attempts from the charity stripe, which comes out to just over 13 attempts per game. That's a 41% decrease in the number of free throw attempts per game for Maryland, which is really significant when you consider that they lost to Florida State and Miami by a combined 10 points. Additionally, while not as significant, Maryland has converted just 24 of those 40 attempts (60%) after shooting close to 70% as a team prior to that stretch. So while they've attempted less free throws, they're also making a smaller percentage of them, worsening their offensive struggles.
While this doesn't fully explain why Maryland has gone from averaging just over 77 points per game prior to this recent three game stretch to 53 points per game, it appears to be the largest contributing factor. When you add in the fact that the competition they're now facing is much tougher than what they saw for most of their out of conference schedule, it becomes even more clear that this might be the main cause impacting Maryland's ability to score as of late.
While Maryland continued their struggle on offense, Mark Turgeon was also frustrated with how his team performed following a timeout. "We were 0 for timeouts. There wasn't one timeout where they did what I asked. Not one" Turgeon said. That included the last play of the game.
"[Pe'Shon Howard] says it wasn't a miss, it was a pass. The play was for Logan [Aronhalt], but Pe'Shon was driving it" sophomore center Alex Len said. "He said it was a pass, I don't know what it was. I just tipped it in."
"Coach drew it up, but it broke down when we ran it" freshman Seth Allen said. "We learned from past losses that we should drive the basket. Pe'Shon drove hard and they had three defenders guarding the ball. On the miss Alex [Len] crashed the boards like he always does and made a great play."
Hopefully Maryland can build off of this win and work to get back to the line as they continue a tough stretch in their conference schedule that includes playing Duke and Florida State on the road in back to back games.
"This win is going to help us a lot" sophomore Nick Faust said. "I think our confidence is going to grow. Having a great win like this is good for us, especially since it was the first big one in a while."