As Maryland's basketball season quickly approaches, Mark Turgeon's team continues to prepare for what will be their last season as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. On Saturday, in what has become an annual open scrimmage on homecoming, Turgeon's team showed glimpses of why people believe Maryland could be in the top half of the recently expanded conference. They also showed that they have a lot to improve on before they tip off the regular season against UConn on November 8th at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn.
Turgeon spoke with the media after the scrimmage, which ended up being three 10 to 12 minute mini games, and included a two minute "overtime" after one of the games thanks to a remarkable play by Dez Wells. Dez' s team was down 3 with a few seconds remaining. They inbounded the ball the length of the court to Dez, who went up and grabbed it and forced up a shot with 0.2 seconds left and was fouled in the process. He went to the line and hit all three free-throws to tie the game and sent it to OT.
Overall, head coach Mark Turgeon wasn't too impressed with what his team showed on Saturday. "I didn't like a lot" Turgeon said when asked about his team's performance. "I thought we were really sloppy. And the only good thing was getting used to how the refs are going to call it. That second scrimmage had 22 foul calls in 12 minutes, so there's no flow to it." As a result of that tightly called game, which seemed to have a foul on every possession, Turgeon decided to play an additional 10 minute scrimmage.
One emphasis that Turgeon has placed on his team coming into this season has been defense, which seems to be a philosophy that his team is buying into. Nick Faust played very well defensively, sans one play by Dez Wells in which Wells was able to hit a fade away jumper over Faust. "We actually guard our plays better then we run them" Turgeon said.
Turgeon seemed to be most impressed with the play and improvement of sophomore Charles Mitchell, saying "He's dropped about eight pounds in the last two weeks, he looks great, he's been practicing well. He was really good early in the scrimmage." Mitchell finished with 13 cumulative points in the three scrimmages.
What was really interesting was Turgeon mentioning the "secret" scrimmage Maryland had, noting that his team wasn't as good as they were when they played Villanova. "We weren't as good today, I know we're not supposed to talk about it, we weren't as good today as we were in our practice scrimmage."
One player that many Maryland fans are wondering about is freshman point guard Roddy Peters. Turgeon said that Roddy had been struggling recently, but performed well in the scrimmage. He struggled a little early from the free throw line, but corrected that and at one point made six consecutive free throws.
"Roddy played well today. That was Roddy's best day. Good for him, he needed it for confidence. He hadn't been practicing great, so it was good for him" Turgeon said.
Point guard play in general has been a big topic of discussion this off season. Maryland actually used Dez Wells as a point guard several times on Saturday and Turgeon indicated that he'll be their number three PG this season. He also said that Seth Allen was held out of the 2nd scrimmage, which was a coaches decision. Turgeon let assistants Scott Spinelli and Bino Ranson each coach a team during the scrimmage and kind of stood back to casually observe his team. But when it came to holding Seth out of that second game, Turgeon said "That was a coaches decision. I didn't make a lot of them today, but that was one of them."
Turgeon also discussed the status of transfer forward Jonathan Graham, who is awaiting a decision from the NCAA about his waiver request to be able to play immediately. "We were hoping we'd hear this week. It's all in. You know, hopefully this week we hear before our Catholic game."
Turgeon was also asked about assistant coach Dalonte Hill, who the school announced last week would be taking an indefinite leave of absence from the program to attend to some personal matters. "We're managing. Guys just do extra work. Right now he's just trying to take care of himself."
Overall, the team appears to be coming together, player roles are starting to be ironed out, but a lot of improvement needs to be made before Maryland's exhibition game against Catholic on November 3rd.
"Today was a little bit of a step back to be quite honest with you" Turgeon said. "But we'll learn from it and hopefully get better."