Mark Turgeon gets a bit disgruntled when he reviews the Terrapins men’s basketball team’s offensive statistics from the first nine regular-season games, and it’s not because the third-year coach thinks his team should be scoring much more. He’s frustrated because he believes the Terps have been productive enough offensively to have seven or eight wins at this point in the season.
Instead, the Terps are 5-4 after giving up more than 76 points — about 11 more than they allow on average — in each of their four losses.
“Seventy-five points should be enough to win a game, but it wasn’t,” Turgeon said yesterday. “Eighty-three at home should be enough to win a game, but it wasn’t. Connecticut was 77. That should have been enough to win a game, but it wasn’t.”
It’s been a shaky defense, in Turgeon’s mind, that has cost the Terps a few extra victories. So in tonight’s conference opener at Boston College, the team will aim to put its defensive struggles in the past while beginning ACC play for the final time after more than 60 years in the league.
The Terps’ task of patching up their defense against the Eagles (3-6) doesn’t appear easy, though. Boston College averages more than 76 points per game and makes 80 percent of its free throws — the best mark in the nation.
Plus, Boston College guard Olivier Hanlan averages 19.2 points and three assists per game, presenting a challenge for a Terps team that has struggled against talented guards this season.
“They got a good point guard,” forward Jake Layman said. “They got a lot of shooters. It should be a tough matchup.”
So the Terps need to improve their defensive effort against Boston College, and both Layman and Turgeon agree on what needs to change.
“I just think it’s effort,” Turgeon said. “Effort and concentration — that’s the only thing it comes down to.”
Still, there are a few specific players who will be key in defending Boston College. First, Turgeon mentioned that guard Nick Faust needed to improve his defensive play after the junior played a part in allowing Colonials guard Maurice Creek to score 25 points Sunday.
Then there’s guard Roddy Peters, who is likely to make the third start of his freshman year at point guard against the Eagles. Peters could help to guard Hanlan tonight, though he’s struggled at times this season staying keyed in while on defense.
“Roddy’s our best point guard offensively,” Turgeon said. “He’s getting better defensively. He’s concentrating on it.”
Turgeon said his main guards — Faust, Peters, Dez Wells and Varun Ram — need to do a better job against Boston College’s perimeter players. Creek and guard Joe McDonald consistently penetrated the Terps defense Sunday, which helped George Washington to pull away.
“G.W. drove it, and they hurt us,” Turgeon said. “Them scoring, us fouling, them getting a second-chance point. Guys just got to guard better.”
With the Terps’ perimeter players struggling to defend the Colonials guards early in the contest, they didn’t force many turnovers and couldn’t find any easy buckets. As a result, the Terps struggled on both ends of the floor and entered halftime trailing by 12 points.
They worked their way back into the game in the second half when their defensive pressure picked up, forcing George Washington into 15 turnovers. Tonight, the Terps hope they can open the game against Boston College with that sort of pressure, rather than digging an early hole.
“Once we loosened up, our offense got going and our defense also got our offense going,” forward Jonathan Graham said. “Our team defense got better, we were scoring points and getting better.”
Though the Colonials ended up on top, the Terps did erase a 14-point lead late in Sunday’s contest, leaving the team with something to build on. The Terps’ full-court press sparked the run, which gave Turgeon more confidence to employ the defense.
The Terps, though, aren’t going to change much about their defensive game plan for the Eagles. Turgeon said he would only “sprinkle in” the full-court press and he doesn’t have enough depth to significantly change personnel.
Turgeon just wants his team to guard better in its current system and bring more intensity on defense. He doesn’t want to wait for improvements, either, considering his team enters conference play just one game above .500 despite an offense that averages 72.8 points per game.
Turning around the defense tonight might not be easy, but it’s something the Terps feel they have to do.
“We just have to defend better,” Turgeon said. “We’re going up here to play against a team that’s averaging 77 a game and can really shoot and really space you, and they’re really hard to guard because they have a great point guard. We’ll be challenged in that area again.”