Maryland searching for some consistency with young roster

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy,Terps,University of Maryland

Turgeon likes the lineup he utilized vs. N.C. State

In its first four ACC games, Maryland has employed four different starting lineups and produced an erratic set of results.

The Terrapins scored 94 points in an aesthetically pleasing victory over Virginia Tech, then half that many in a grotesque loss eight days later at Miami. In a defeat last week to Florida State, the Terps froze in the second half, blowing a 12-point lead. Then Wednesday night they had the finishing touch in a one-point win over N.C. State.

Not that anyone is surprised by the inconsistency. Rotating four freshmen, three sophomores and two transfers has been a volatile mix.

Up next
Maryland at UNC
When » Saturday, noon
Where » Dean Smith Center,
Chapel Hill, N.C.
TV » ESPN

"I just hope my hair doesn't turn completely gray before the season's over," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said.

But Wednesday might have been a starting point for the progression of the young Terps, who travel to North Carolina (11-5, 1-2 ACC) on Saturday. Turgeon appears to have settled on the lineup that gives Maryland (14-3, 2-2) its best chance to grow. With sophomore Nick Faust at the point, sophomore Alex Len at the four and freshman Seth Allen on the wing, Turgeon has a clearer sense of where his players belong, though there will be a tough adjustment in the short term.

"I can't add enough stuff because they can't consume it all right now, so we're really limited on some of the stuff we're doing," Turgeon said. "Then I start Shaq [Cleare]. I move Alex to the four. Heck, he has no idea what he's doing at that spot."

But Turgeon liked what he saw Wednesday night. Despite shooting just 34.4 percent from the floor and 16.7 percent from beyond the arc, the Maryland offense functioned with more purpose. As guards slashed to the lane, they created quality opportunities. Of the 40 shots the Terps missed, 12 were layups and 15 were 3-pointers, many of which were clean looks.

"There were times when there was too much sharing the ball. That happens with us," Allen said. "Even when we weren't hitting shots, I like that we attacked the basket and played inside out."

The strategy extended all the way to the last play of the game as Pe'Shon Howard showed no hesitation when he received an inbounds pass with 5.2 seconds left, driving to the goal, drawing the defense and freeing Len for the game-winning shot.

It was a departure from 3-point losses to Kentucky and Florida State in which Maryland settled for harried 3-point shots.

"We drove it, which we haven't done in the past," Allen said. "We've experienced it, so we felt a little more comfortable in that situation."

The next step for Maryland is to build cohesion with its new -- and perhaps permanent -- starting lineup. Regardless of who has been on the floor, the defense has been a constant, limiting foes to 35.1 percent shooting, third best in the nation. That defense will be tested Saturday by North Carolina, which averages an ACC-high 79.7 points per game.

Against the ACC blue blood, it's another opportunity for Maryland to make a statement.

"Me and Nick were talking. We haven't ever experienced anything like that," Allen said of the N.C. State win. "We want to keep runs like this going. This really puts us on the map."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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