NCAA

Mark Turgeon admits that Maryland didn’t respect Nebraska enough in a tight win

Mark Turgeon admits that Maryland didn’t respect Nebraska enough in a tight win

COLLEGE PARK, Md - There are no off nights in the Big Ten. From top to bottom they are one of the best conferences in the country and are likely to send a record number of teams to the NCAA Tournament in March.

However, when the conference leaders host one of the basement dwellers, who are not anticipated to even be in postseason contention, it should be a straightforward night for the home team. 

Anyone who has watched Maryland basketball over the years knows that no win is straightforward. That was the case again for the Maryland Terrapins on Tuesday night when they hosted the seven-win Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Maryland escaped with a 72-70 win, but not without Nebraska getting the chance to win the game in the final seconds. Had it not been for a Jalen Smith block with five seconds remaining, Maryland would have had one of the worst home losses among the top tier of teams in the Big Ten. 

Maryland, admittedly, overlooked Nebraska. The same Nebraska team that had lost to Southern Utah and North Dakota during nonconference play. The same team that entered the night on an eight-game losing streak. The same team that only mustered two wins in the Big Ten. 

“We didn’t respect our opponent enough,” Mark Turgeon said postgame. “I’ll take the blame. I didn’t have us ready. I was a little under the weather. I wasn’t at practice on Sunday, I haven’t missed practice in 15 years. Felt like crap the whole game, I didn’t do my job.”

Throughout the night, Maryland stumbled and was unable to unleash the full compliments of their offense. To no one’s surprise, a slow start on the offensive end contributed to their struggles. Still, it should have been a game that Maryland could have been on cruise control, got their stars some rest and headed to the locker room early. Even with Nebraska starting an abysmal 3-for-20 from behind the arc, Maryland did not do enough to pad a lead in the first half.

In true-Maryland fashion, it was a wire-to-wire game where all the starters played 30+ minutes. However, in a game that the Terps typically would have lost in the past, or even at the beginning of the season, the team held their own to come away with a win. 

“Every win in the Big Ten is crucial, everybody knows that in the NCAA anybody can be beat at any point. So just knowing that we came away with this win, one that a long time down the road is going to be helpful for us,” Smith said. 

A 14-point lead is the largest gap Maryland could build. Throughout the night, Nebraska kept the game within arms distance with Maryland giving them opportunity after opportunity to stay in the game. Maryland had 17 turnovers and a 7-for-23 shooting performance from deep. 

Late in the second half, the Cornhuskers finally broke through with a 12-2 run to cut the deficit to two. Showing that everything was going wrong, Maryland missed two free throws on the front-end of one-and-one attempts to ice the game. Still, when everything was going wrong, Maryland got the win. 

“If you’re gonna have a flat game, have it at home against a team that’s won two [conference games] and figure out how to win it, and you know, we got lucky,” Turgeon said. “My guys, when they have to get it done, they get it done.”

Flat games happen, even for the No. 9 Terrapins. Perhaps the Terps got their sights on Saturday night in a huge clash in East Lansing with Michigan State. But when you’re a good team, sometimes you happen to get lucky. They’re going to need a little of both if they are going to make a run at the Big Ten title. 

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Mike Locksley and Terrapins coaching staff try to keep team together during coronavirus pandemic

Mike Locksley and Terrapins coaching staff try to keep team together during coronavirus pandemic

No spring football games, no practices, no recruiting visits, and believe it or not, less time in the day.  

That is the current reality for Maryland’s head football coach, Mike Locksley. Not the easiest of circumstances to try and run a rebuilding football program in the Big 10. 
 
“Man, it’s been tough. I usually get up and get a little work out in. I’ve got an in-home gym where I can just do something to get moving,” Locksley said. “I’m kind of like a kid where if I get off schedule, I’m not very good… I get up, I get dressed. I don’t play around in my pajamas or shorts and a t-shirt.” 

Technically, the team has been on spring break this week, so there would have been no meetings in this first full week of quarantine.  But the staff has been busier than ever preparing for what life will look like when online classes begin on Monday. That is when the coaching staff will try to create some form of normalcy for their players.   

“We get eight hours a week to virtually meet with our players, so we’re working hard on developing the football intelligence that it takes using all the technology we have,” Locksley said.  

In normal times, only two hours a week would be allowed for film work or walkthroughs. The other six would be focused on strength training. These are far from normal times so this is where accountability comes into play. What they do now will pay off during the Big 10 season in the fall.   

“I think this is where you’ll see the biggest strides in the game for our programs, what these guys do when nobody is around and nobody is watching them,” Locksley said. “We always talk about being the best version of yourself and this gives our players the opportunity to do that without coaches there.”  

But it certainly makes it challenging to evaluate and develop players on a team that has much to improve upon finishing last season 3-9.  All 15 spring practices have been canceled, but Locksley says the Terrapins are focused on finding solutions for when the team is allowed back together, not excuses.  

“There’s no substitute for being able to go out and practice and if we can’t physically develop them, we need to mentally develop them,” Locksley said. “A lot of football success is about making the right decisions. That’s where teaching, the installs, and the mental conditioning will help develop our team.”  

So how do you get everyone in alignment during a time of pandemic?  First off, by staying up to date as best you can while staying home.   

“It makes you have to stay on the cutting edge of technology,” Locksley said with a chuckle. “I had never heard of a Zoom meeting until about a week ago.” 

Few of us had! Of course we’re all well aware now. Working from home has become the new norm and that was the way this interview was conducted. And it will play an even bigger role as Locksley and his staff look to continue the recruiting process for the class of 2021.   

Fortunately, most recruits had already visited campus before school was shut down, but coaches are now using FaceTime, making countless phone calls, and using social media to connect with prospective future Terps. The coaching staff meets via video conference every day at 10:30 a.m., position coaches check in with their players daily and the staff reconvenes in the afternoon for updates.  

It’s a time none of us could have expected and no one can predict when it will end. But there’s still work to be done.   

“It’s about finding ways to improve yourself, not use this as an excuse for what’s to come,” Locksley said. “I think the strides we make now will determine what happens in the fall - if we are able to play football.” 

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DMV native Jeff Green 'feels bad' for players unable to shine in 2020 NCAA tournament

DMV native Jeff Green 'feels bad' for players unable to shine in 2020 NCAA tournament

The NBA and NHL were suspended mid-season, Major League Baseball's start is postponed and among several more cancellations and suspensions in the sports world is the NCAA tournament. 

The NCAA canceled their national tournament nearly two weeks ago due to the coronavirus outbreak, taking away 67 games of March Madness action. 

In those 67 games are typically countless opportunities for the nation's top players to prove themselves on the biggest stage. Not only that, but mid-major stars who are rarely heard of throughout the season have a chance to vault themselves into national stardom. 

Those are the players, Houston Rockets forward and Cheverly, MD native Jeff Green feels for the most. 

"I feel bad for the kids," Green said to Chris Miller on the Wizards Talk Podcast. "The kids that shine through this tournament that have never been acknowledged through their career. There's always a handful of kids that stick out like, 'Oh man, I've never watched him play.'

"I look at CJ McCollum, who made his name at the tournament," he said. "It's kids like that I wish had the opportunity because this is what they live for."

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McCollum was a superstar at Lehigh, a small program in Pennsylvania, but he truly made a name for himself by scoring 26 points as a freshman against Kansas in the 2010 tournament. 

Players like McCollum, as well as seniors like Maryland's Anthony Cowan Jr. and breakout stars such as Obi Toppin won't be able to show the world how good they are.

The impact on the 2020 NBA Daft remains to be seen. It's unclear how much weight scouts put into the tournament versus their own private workouts and combine interviews, but how many players will teams miss out on without the benefit of a tournament consisting of so many high-pressure scenarios?

Again, it remains to be seen, and that's Green's point. Those unknown mid-major starts will be challenged to get noticed before the draft. 

"It sucks because now [the players] don't know what to do because the opportunity is gone," he said. 

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