Turnovers a big problem for Terrapins

Much of the talk after University of Maryland’s 80-65 victory Saturday over New Mexico centered on the Terrapins’ ability to bounce back from a tough loss.

“I’m really proud of how my team responded,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. “It was a short turn around but we came out with a lot of energy.”

The victory came less than 19 hours after the Terps walked off the court 63-61 losers to a short-handed Saint Bonaventure squad in the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Fla. on Friday night. In that game, Maryland showed little energy, struggled on offense and got beat by a team that was missing its top returning scorer from last season, guard Jaylen Adams. Adams, a Baltimore native, is nursing a sprained ankle.

The Terps showed far more life against New Mexico the next day, roaring out to a 27-3 lead and never looking back as they improved to 5-1 this season with Syracuse up next on Monday night.

But there was one problem that lingered from the St. Bonaventure loss and it’s a problem that has plagued the Terrapins all season – turnovers.

Maryland turned it over 20 times against St. Bonaventure and 22 times against New Mexico. They also had 20 against Butler in a home game earlier this season. For the year, Maryland’s got 120 turnovers in seven games (17 per game).

That number might seem a little high to Terrapins fans – and they’d be right. Last year’s 24-9 team averaged just 12.9 per game.

 

Cowans dribble
Cowan now has 25 assists after seven games and 20 turnovers for the Terrapins.

If you wanted to put a positive spin on the numbers, you could argue that the players are still adjusting to life without guard Melo Trimble, who left school after his junior year to try his luck in the NBA Draft.

But Maryland’s carelessness with the ball should be a concern for Turgeon. Until this weekend, starting point guard Anthony Cowan (St. John’s) had seemingly morphed into a reliable quarterback for the offense, helping to offset Trimble’s departure.

Cowan (15.3) leads Maryland in scoring and turned the ball over just eight times in the first five games. At that point, he looked like the team’s most responsible ballhandler. But over the weekend, he appeared to catch whatever turnover virus had infected his teammates; he had a dozen turnovers in the last two games, including a whopping eight against New Mexico. After his lost weekend, Cowan now has 25 assists after seven games and 20 turnovers.

But Turgeon doesn’t have a lot of options at point guard. That’s why Cowan leads the team in minutes played and has been out on the floor for at least 35 minutes in four of Maryland’s seven games.

“I just didn’t feel like I could take him out,” Turgeon said after the St. Bonaventure loss.

Kevin Huerter (29 assists, 20 turnovers), Dion Wiley (nine assists, 20 turnovers) and freshmanDarryl Morsell (seven assists, 15 turnovers) all have been mentioned by Turgeon as potential backups at the point. But none of the aforementioned is a true point guard like Cowan or as good a perimeter defender.

What does all this mean going forward? Stay tuned. The combined record of Maryland’s seven opponents so far this season is 16-24. If the Terps can’t take care of the ball against struggling teams, how can they expect to fare once they step up in competition? You would think the defenses will get better, not worse, as the team wades into Big Ten play.

We’ll find out soon enough if this will be a chronic problem this season, or a temporary one. Maryland visits Syracuse (5-0) on Monday.

As usual, the Orange relies on a 2-3 zone designed to cause problems for opponents. Maryland struggled against a variety of defenses (including some zone) against St. Bonaventure and can expect to see a steady diet of the same until the team proves capable of handling it.

After Monday’s matchup at the Carrier Dome, Maryland will play host to Purdue and visitIllinois in a pair of December conference games in the Big Ten. So, whatever ballhandling problems might exist will either be solved or exposed in the next few games.

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