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STEVE DeSHAZO: Before Terps get talent, they’ve got to get mean

COLLEGE PARK, Md.—Before last night’s game with Illinois, Maryland showed a montage of highlights from the program’s illustrious basketball history, accompanied by the Aerosmith ballad “Dream On.”

It was a fitting musical choice for a program that can only envision better days, as witnessed by the undermanned Terps’ 71–62 loss to the undefeated Illini in the Atlantic Coast Conference–Big Ten Showdown.

“At this point we do not know how to win against a good team,” first-year coach Mark Turgeon said, “but we will.”

Turgeon’s remarkable candor may be the best asset for a 3–3 team that bears little resemblance to the program Gary Williams built almost from scratch into the 2002 national champions. Williams abruptly retired just days after all-ACC center Jordan Williams passed up his final two seasons of college eligibility to join the NBA.

Those departures, along with graduation and a foot injury to sophomore guard Pe’Shon Howard leaves Turgeon with six healthy scholarship players until after Christmas. And while last night offered a glimpse of the possibilities, the immediate road ahead will be bumpy. Turgeon admitted to reporters on Monday that he didn’t know just how daunting the rebuilding task would be when he left Texas A&M to take the Terps job in June.

Maryland’s biggest problem is a dearth of talent, an issue Turgeon and his staff are addressing with a recruiting class that includes Fredericksburg Christian School star Seth Allen. An issue that can be fixed sooner is their demeanor.

“We’re just too nice” Turgeon said after watching the Illini outrebound his team 22–14 in the second half to erase a nine-point first-half deficit. “We’ve got to get tougher, mentally and physically. We’re a lot tougher than we were a week ago.”

That’s when the Terps went 1–2 at the Puerto Rico Tip-off, getting routed by Alabama and Iona around a 78–71 win over Colorado. Maryland shot 27 percent against the Crimson Tide.

Scoring will be an issue for the Terps, who got 41 of their 62 points last night from two players: sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin and junior forward James Padgett. Their most experienced player, senior guard Sean Mosley, took just four shots—a number that irritated Turgeon.

Howard’s injury has forced Stoglin, the ACC’s leading scorer at 20.8 points per game, into an unfamiliar role as point guard. He’s facing the same dilemma Sean Singletary once endured at Virginia: His team needs him to score, but it can’t win if he’s the only one scoring. Complicating the problem is that opponents are also aware of that fact.

Stoglin was a respectable 8-for-17 from the field last night including four 3-pointers. But out of necessity he also had a couple of attempts that could be charitably called ill-advised.

“He’s going to have to shoot a few bad shots,” Turgeon said. “He took a few too many tonight. But he also makes bad shots.”

Stoglin said he’s trying to learn when to take charge and when to facilitate, a lesson some players never learn.

“I’ve never watched so much film in my life,” he said. “I’ve got to pick my spots.”

Things could get slightly better after the first of the year, once Howard’s foot heals and 7-foot-1 Alex Len becomes eligible after serving a 10-game NCAA suspension for playing for a club team in his native Ukraine. But once ACC play begins, the Terps will rarely be deeper or more experienced than any of their opponents.

A solid first half last night gave a fleeting glimpse of the best-case scenario, as the noise level in Comcast Center rose to familiar levels. But things figure to get worse before they get better

Still, Turgeon is keeping his head up.

“I’ve got a lot of faith in my team.” he said. “I didn’t have it a week ago.”

Illinois 31 40 — 71

Maryland 35 27 — 62

Scoring

Illinois (7–0): Griffey 3-8 0-1 7, Leonard 6-9 0-0 12, Maniscalco 6-11 7-7 24, Richardson 2-8 2-2 6, Paul 5-14 6-6 17, Bertrand 0-1 0-0 0, Head 0-0 0-0 0, Abrams 0-2 2-2 2, Shaw 0-0 1-2 1, Henry 0-1 0-0 0, Djimde 0-0 0-0 0, Egwu 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 23-55 18-20 71.

Maryland (3–3): Mosley 2-4 0-0 5, Padgett 5-9 6-9 16, Weijs 1-1 0-0 2, Faust 2-11 1-3 5, Stoglin 8-17 5-8 25, Parker 1-4 0-0 2, Auslander 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas 0-1 0-0 0, Pankey 2-3 3-5 7. Totals 21-50 15-25 62.

3-Point Goals-Illinois 7-23 (Maniscalco 5-8, Paul 1-4, Griffey 1-5, Henry 0-1, Leonard 0-1, Richardson 0-4), Maryland 5-19 (Stoglin 4-9, Mosley 1-3, Thomas 0-1, Faust 0-6). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Illinois 37 (Paul 7), Maryland 31 (Padgett, Parker 5). Assists-Illinois 13 (Abrams 4), Maryland 5 (Faust, Mosley 2). Total Fouls-Illinois 21, Maryland 16. A-13,187.

Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443

sdeshazo@freelancestar.com

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