Terps look­ing to pro­long one strange sea­son

The Washington Times Daily - - Weather - BY PA­TRICK STEVENS

AT­LANTA | The Mary­land bas­ket­ball pro­gram’s most bizarre 12 months in re­cent mem­ory are al­most over, this week’s trip to the ACC tour­na­ment likely its final stop.

The Ter­rap­ins have seen their long­time coach re­tire, had a fresh­man cen­ter sus­pended 10 games to com­ply with NCAA am­a­teurism reg­u­la­tions, twice lost their start­ing point guard to in­jury and nav­i­gated nearly four months of play with be­tween seven and nine schol­ar­ship play­ers avail­able.

In short, Mary­land (16-14) prob­a­bly won’t en­dure such a strange sea­son, one which the eighth­seeded Terps hope pos­sesses one more turn en­ter­ing Thurs­day’s meet­ing with Wake For­est (13-17).

“We have too much of a story go­ing on,” se­nior cen­ter Berend Weijs said. “I think if we go to the na­tional tour­na­ment, we’re go­ing to get our WAKE FOR­EST VS. MARY­LAND To­day: TV: Ra­dio:

own movie.”

The Terps need four wins this week­end be­fore re­quir­ing any cast­ing calls. And while such a run is un­likely, it would con­tinue an il­lu­mi­nat­ing sea­son for firstyear coach Mark Tur­geon.

It’s also re­vealed plenty about Tur­geon, who was hired in May to re­place the re­tired Gary Wil­liams. The for­mer Texas A&M coach lived up to his rep­u­ta­tion for can­dor, but on most oc­ca­sions sprin­kled pos­i­tive takeaways with his hon­esty.

He in­her­ited a rel­a­tively in­ex­pe­ri­enced ros­ter, but de­scribed progress from many play­ers through­out the sea­son. He praised guard Ter­rell Stoglin’s com­pet­i­tive­ness while prod­ding the sopho­more into play­ing bet­ter de­fense (which hap­pened at times) and im­proved shot se­lec­tion.

Tur­geon scram­bled to mask front­court de­fi­cien­cies by play­ing smaller line­ups when he could, but also mixed and matched big men and played hot hands when he could.

Dur­ing an hour­long open prac­tice Wed­nes­day morn­ing at Philips Arena, Tur­geon of­fered pre­cise in­struc­tions as the Terps held a de facto walk-through to pre­pare for the De­mon Dea­cons. It was a win­dow into a man still seek­ing an­swers for an of­ten-be­fud­dling ros­ter that took a se­vere hit with Pe’shon Howard’s sea­son-end­ing knee in­jury last month.

“The hard part was the puz­zle kept chang­ing and the hard­est part was you never knew what you were go­ing to get out of your guys,” Tur­geon said. “You knew what Sean [Mosley] was go­ing to give you, Nick [Faust] for the most part was go­ing to give you, James Pad­gett 75 per­cent of the time. The rest of the guys, you never knew what you were go­ing to get.”

And so there were a va­ri­ety of is­sues, but also some con­sis­tency. Tur­geon said his team was at­ten­tive from the start and in­sisted there were fun times.

“Sean’s had a great year. Ter­rell’s had a great year. Alex [Len] did get el­i­gi­ble,” Tur­geon said. “Our fresh­men have got­ten bet­ter. James Pad­gett’s stepped up. We’ve been blessed in a lot of ar­eas, too. We have a great coach­ing staff I be­lieve in. I’ve seen it. I’ve had guys leave. It’s just all part of it.”

It comes as lit­tle sur­prise one of Tur­geon’s pri­mary watchwords is re­silience. It helped the Terps avoid a glar­ing loss early in the sea­son, helped them im­prove de­spite a shaky stretch in Jan­uary and al­lowed them to stretch Virginia to over­time Sun­day af­ter a pair of for­get­table losses.

That, it turns out, could be the most valu­able thing the Terps carry into this tour­na­ment and be­yond.

“It was kind of weird, but also fun since it was a chal­lenge for us,” Pad­gett said. “We were a young team, and we knew we had to get bet­ter fast, learn fast, learn on the go. Coach al­ways em­pha­sizes that you have to be able to adapt on the fly be­cause things are go­ing to change un­ex­pect­edly.”

Per­haps there’s an­other twist in store. Even if there is not, it will not change the re­al­ity this year was both most un­usual and nearly at its end.

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