Maryland men’s basketball turning around turnover issue as crucial stretch looms

Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland men’s basketball (12-7, B1G 3-5) currently sits in a two-way tie for tenth place in the Big Ten standings with a 3-5 record, but only two games separate Maryland from second place. Maryland, like most of the Big Ten teams, are unable to find a rhythm, alternating between wins and losses.

In some of Maryland’s early season conference games the Terps plagued themselves with rough starts on the road, poor three-point shooting, and turnovers. 

Despite splitting their last two games, one area where Maryland has made strides recently is limiting turnovers. In their last two games the Terps turned over the ball under 10 times, the first time in the Kevin Willard era to have back-to-back games with single digit turnovers.

With the single digit turnovers, the Terps have recorded a positive assist/turnover ratio in back-to-back games and their first time since the Saint Peter’s win the Terps recorded a positive assist/turnover ratio. 

“I’m throwing a party at the house tonight,” head coach Kevin Willard said after the Michigan win in a game where the Terps only turned the ball over six times. 

The Terps followed up their win against the Wolverines by almost coming back from a 16-point deficit against No. 3 Purdue in their building, but ultimately came up short. Still, the Terps only turned the ball over nine times in the loss against the Boilermakers who were playing stout defense in the first half. 

“We’ve really been selective of who’s pushing the tempo,” Willard said. “We’ve put the ball in Jahmir’s [Young] hands a lot more and in Jahari’s [Long] hands on the break, which has slowed us down a little bit, but has made decision making easier for everybody else.” 

Getting Young more involved has helped increase the Terps assists. In the Purdue game, Young tied his season high of seven assists. 

The Terps still own the worst assist/turnover ratio in the Big Ten, with a 0.89 rating. The turnovers in the first half helped dig the Terps into holes and the points 

Prior to the Terps’ last two games, Maryland was turning the ball over 12.4 times a game while opponents were averaging 12.5 points off turnovers a game. In some of Maryland’s narrow losses such as Wisconsin and Tennessee those points were the difference makers.

Additionally, Maryland has turned the ball over 140 times against Power 5 teams with 71 of them coming from steals, slightly over 50% which showed the Terps lack of ball security. 

“I just thought we were wasting too many possessions in transition with too many people trying to make decisions,” Willard said. “We’ve kind of made our [transition offense] a little bit simpler just trying to not have as many guys handle the ball.”

This change has made a world of difference as Michigan and Purdue combined for just five steals on Maryland’s 15 turnovers. The Terps look like a different offense when they limit turnovers. Maryland has excelled scoring in the paint and fast break baskets. 

Against Iowa the Terps recorded zero fast break points, as those points were difference makers. But in their last two games the Terps have scored a combined 25 fast break points. 

“That’s how we are supposed to play every game,” Young said. “Just trying to focus on our tempo and speed the game up to play at our pace.”