Terps need veterans to play better tonight
Turgeon ‘not concerned’ about Dodd, Nickens, who struggled against American
COLLEGE PARK — The encouraging news coming out of Maryland’s 62-56 season-opening win over American on Friday night was the play of three freshmen and graduate transfer L.G. Gill, all of whom joined junior guard Melo Trimble to help the Terps overcome a four-point deficit in the final minutes.
The less-than-encouraging news was the performance of the rest of the Maryland players who got into the game. They shot a combined 3-for-16, including 1-for-7 on 3-pointers, and totaled eight points, eight rebounds, four assists and five turnovers in a combined 46 minutes.
Among the biggest culprits were senior center Damonte Dodd and junior wing Jared Nickens.
Both started the game but finished it on the bench. Dodd picked up two early fouls and played just11minutes without getting a rebound or blocking a shot. Nickens missed all five shots he attempted, four of them 3-pointers, and got one rebound in 15 minutes.
The Terps were lucky to get such big contributions from their newcomers. Anthony Cowan Jr. had 12 points and nine rebounds. Kevin Huerter hit two big 3-pointers down the stretch, grabbed six rebounds and played good defense on American’s top scorer. Justin Jackson had nine rebounds. Gill added 11 points and six rebounds.
Though the rookies had to carry much of the load, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said Monday that he isn’t all that concerned about his veterans.
“It’s just one game, and Damonte did get in foul trouble — two illegal screens, which Damonte Dodd, shooting over American’s Mark Gasperini in the opener, picked up two early fouls, played only 11 minutes and didn’t get a rebound or block a shot.
he needs to work on, he needs to get himself set, our guys need to slow down when they come off ball screens — but I’m not concerned. I rely on Damonte,” Turgeon said. “Damonte’s going to be a big part of our success this year.
“Defensively he’s a big part of it, he’s just got to do what he does — defend and rebound and anchor our defense, and he gets guys open offensively. So he’s got to keep doing that. And Jared’s made a lot of shots, Jared’s won a lot of games here. He’s won 56 games in two years and one game [this season]; that’s pretty good. Jared’s going to make big shots for us.”
Turgeon’s plans to attack Georgetown in their meeting tonight at Verizon Center in Washington will determine whether he starts Dodd and Nickens.
Another option is playing the 6-foot-8, 230-pound Gill at power forward or even center, as he did toward the end against American, with the 6-7, 225-pound Jackson as another forward.
The Hoyas can go big — they have four players available who are 6-9 or taller and only one under 6-3 — or they can play more of a three-guard set, as they did in dismantling South Carolina Upstate by 45 points Saturday. Georgetown’s strategy will likely dictate Maryland’s matchups.
Last year, Turgeon often talked about how difficult it was for his big team — with 6-9 Jake Layman at small forward — to chase smaller teams around.
Perhaps the Terps could make the Hoyas chase them.
“It will be interesting what matchups they go with,” Turgeon said. “We can play big, they can play big. [Georgetown junior Isaac Copeland] is like a guard, though he plays the 4. We’re definitely a different dynamic than we were last year.”
Gill said going to a smaller lineup “can definitely put us at an advantage as far as speed, getting up and down the court. As far as them being bigger than us, at times we’re just going to have to help each other out a lot on defense, especially if they have bigger guards, and they might try to post up.”
Turgeon hoped the biggest contrast from last season would be the number of ways he could play and different players he could use.
Maryland struggled for long stretches offensively against American, in part because several players, including Trimble, played too much one-on-one and because a few of the veterans — including redshirt sophomore guard Dion Wiley, who shot 1-for-6 — struggled to get into any type of flow. Jared Nickens, with Nebraska’s Andrew White III in last season’s Big Ten quarterfinals, missed all five shots he attempted against American, four of them 3-pointers, and got one rebound in 15 minutes. “Jared’s going to make big shots for us,” coach Mark Turgeon said Monday.
“We’re not going to win games if Melo’s taking 19 shots and the next-closest guy is six,” Turgeon said. “We’re not going to be a good team. We talked about it. Guys get themselves involved. We were very selfish for us. We’re a very unselfish team. We can really pass. We can do some nice things. We just didn’t do it Friday night and it kind of snowballed on us.”
Trimble said watching freshmen in their place at the end of the game should motivate players such as Nickens and Wiley.
“It should,” said Trimble, who will be playing in the Verizon Center for the first time. “They’re great players; it wasn’t their night. Other nights are going to be their nights. Some nights are not going to be their night. It’s part of basketball.”
NOTE: Tonight’s game is part of a home-and-home between the local rivals representing the Big Ten and Big East in the second annual Gavitt Tipoff Games.