In his second year as coach at Maryland, Mark Turgeon has many more quality players, allowing him to reward and penalize them with playing time. So far the message is getting across as the Terrapins are playing improved defense, attacking the boards, and sharing the ball.
It’s a departure from last year when Turgeon had no choice but to stick with his thin rotation, even when players rejected his teachings.
“It helps. It’s a lot different than last season,” Turgeon said. “At some point I gotta get the rotation down a little bit. But for right now it’s about building confidence and getting everybody comfortable within the system.”
It’s also about getting the players to march to his drumbeat. When asked who would start Saturday against South Carolina State (4-4), Turgeon hinted that senior Logan Aronhalt and freshman Charles Mitchell would probably be given the opportunity, but it ultimately would depend on how they performed in Friday’s practice.
“There’s a lot between now and 2 o’clock tomorrow,” Turgeon said. “We’re dealing with 18-year-old kids.”
Using playing time as a carrot has contributed to Maryland’s vast improvement in several areas. Last year at this point, Maryland (7-1) had 74 assists on 209 baskets (35.4 percent). This year the Terps have accumulated 153 assists on 228 baskets (67.1 percent).
The difference in rebounding is just as dramatic. The Terps have collected 128 more rebounds than their opponents, a plus-16 average per game. Last year at this time, Maryland foes had collected one more total rebound than the Terps, a minus .1 average per game.
Maryland also is playing improved defense, limiting opponents to 35.8 percent field goal and 30.2 3-point shooting compared to 45.2 percent overall and 33.6 percent after eight games last season.
One player who has taken Turgeon’s words to heart is sophomore Nick Faust. His minutes are down from last year, 27.7 to 24.9 per game, but he is averaging more points (10.9 pg vs. 8.9 pg) and more assists (3.3 pg vs. 2.0 pg) while committing fewer turnovers (1.4 pg vs. 2.5).
“It’s definitely a factor,” Faust recently said about the threat of being removed from the game. “We’ve got a lot more guys who can play. You need to do things right to stay on the floor.”
In Wednesday’s 100-68 victory over Maryland Eastern Shore, Faust passed up several layups to feed teammates for baskets, finishing with 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting with seven assists and one turnover. It was a departure from early this year when Turgeon called Faust “selfish.”
“Nick’s really changed a lot the last 2-3 weeks,” Turgeon said. “The team really holds each other accountable.”
Turgeon said he reiterated his playing-time threat early in the UMES game when it was apparent that Maryland was on its way to a convincing victory.
“The first or second timeout the other night, you knew we were going to win, you knew everybody was going to get a chance to play, I was like, ‘Hey there’s a lot of guys that want to play in this game, so you better play hard when you’re in there and do the right things,’” Turgeon said. “I thought we did it pretty much for the first half. Second half we didn’t guard.”
Expect Turgeon to send the same message on Saturday when Maryland takes on another over-matched foe from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
South Carolina State at Maryland
When: Saturday, 2 p.m.
Where: Comcast Center, College Park
Radio: ESPN 980 AM