Terps need more R&R to improve
Opener shows rebounding, running keys to building successful season
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — For the first 10 minutes of Friday night’s season opener against Stony Brook at Nassau Coliseum, the Maryland men’s basketball team seemed to be feeling out both its opponent and itself. The pace was a bit choppy, the execution a little sloppy. The next 10 minutes were much different, as the Terps began to speed up the game, first with their defense and rebounding, and then with their fast break.
It was a glimpse into how Mark Turgeon wants his team to look this season, a style of play that he has tried to implement during his first six years at Maryland but has not had the combination of players to do it consistently. Two first-half possessions that began 40 seconds apart — as well as a subsequent possession a couple of minutes later — showed how effective the Terps could be.
The first began with a defensive rebound by Anthony Cowan Jr. and ended five seconds later with the sophomore point guard lobbing a halfcourt pass to freshman Bruno Fernando for a dunk.
The second began with Fernando blocking a shot, taking control of the rebound and throwing the outlet to sophomore forward Justin Jackson, who was fouled going to the basket. That play also took five seconds.
The last was all Jackson, who corralled a missed 3-pointer by Stony Brook forward Tyrell Sturdivant and dribbled the length of the court before finishing with a scoop layup.
“I told him that if he gets the rebound he can bring it up the court,” Turgeon said of Jackson, who finished with a career-high 14 rebounds to go with 11 points for his third career double-double. “He likes to dribble, he likes to bring it up the court.
“We’ve got multiple guys — Kevin Huerter, Justin, Anthony, Darryl [Morsell], even Dion [Wiley] when they get rebounds, they need to bring it. The break’s much faster, we got better in transition as the game went on.”
Said Jackson, “That’s just the beauty of our team now. We’ve got guys that can push the ball on the break, we have so many ballhandlers on the court at once, it opens up the floor for us. We have shooters, we have slashers, it’s going to be a great season.”
It’s not as if the Terps played at a turtle’s pace the past few years with Melo Trimble and Cowan running the break with plenty of options — from Dez Wells to Jake Layman to Robert Carter Jr. to Diamond Stone to Jackson, Huerter and Michal Cekovsky — to finish it. Video: Radio:
“The last three years, we’ve been top 10 in the country in transition,” Turgeon said. “I think this team can be even better.”
The source of confidence for Turgeon, whose team plays its home opener Sunday night against UMES, is the growth of his sophomores, the renewed health of Cekovsky and redshirt junior guard Wiley and the addition of Fernando and fellow freshman Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph).
If there’s one player who gives the Terps a different look than they’ve had under Turgeon, it’s Fernando, the 6-10, 245-pound center from Angola who seems to play with the kind of full-court energy that was often inconsistent from big men such as Stone, Carter and Damonte Dodd.
“He was amazing, man,” Jackson said of Fernando, who overcame early foul trouble to finish with 10 points in 13 minutes. “That’s not even all he can do. He was playing a little bit nervous, it was his first college game. Like I say, everything is just a stepping stone. He’s building.”
Huerter, who had 13 points and four assists, said there has been an emphasis on rebounding, in part to help the Terps run. Defensive rebounding, something the Terps have struggled with at times in recent seasons, is the key to getting the break.
Against Stony Brook, Maryland pulled down 34 of its 42 rebounds on the defensive end. Overall, the Terps outrebounded the Seawolves 42-26.
“A big thing going into this game was, last year we weren’t a good rebounding team, we have a physicality this year with Sean [Obi] and Bruno and Darryl,” Huerter said. “That’s one of our goals; we’re not going to get beat on the glass this year.” Top target signs with Kentucky: Top Terps target Keldon Johnson committed and signed with Kentucky on Saturday, the Terps’ second miss on a blue-chip target in a month.
Johnson, a five-star senior guard at Oak Hill Academy (Va.) rated the No. 14 overall player in the 247Sports.com Composite rankings, joins John Carroll point guard Immanuel Quickley in the Wildcats’ recruiting class.
Coach Mark Turgeon says his Terps have been ranked in the top 10 in the nation in transition the past three years.