With their five-game homestand completed, the No. 5 Terrapins will head to Florida for the ESPN Orlando Invitational. They open against Temple at 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving day.
The Owls are off to a 4-0 start and are coming off of a big win on Friday at USC (a team also in the tournament). Temple, led by first-year head coach and former Philadelphia 76er Aaron McKie, is shepherded by junior guard Nate Pierre-Louis. The 6’4 New Jersey native is filling the stat sheet, leading the team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals.
Collectively, the Owls do not turn the ball over much (only 10 per game) while playing at a similar pace to Maryland. They also are not afraid to pull from deep, shooting 24 per game. If Maryland can get past Temple, there are several other dangerous teams ahead. Both Harvard and Texas A&M are top 100 teams according to Ken Pom and a championship game with the aforementioned USC or the offensively potent Marquette Golden Eagles could await.
But for now, the focus remains on themselves and improving.
“We’ve been pretty focused, been playing pretty well, but sometimes you just need to get away to really bond. That’s really what these preseason tournaments are about,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “You can really get better. Three games in four days, lot of meeting times.”
One of the few flaws in Maryland’s play so far has been some slow starts. It’s not until late in the first half that Turgeon’s squad has typically pulled away. An unusually early 11 a.m. game time could lead to another slow start, but the players know what they need to do to prevent that.
“Just have the right mindset. Go in and lock in, know we gotta go in and get our job done,” said sophomore Serrel Smith, who is the only Florida native on the team. “Put our foot on the gas early and not start off slow like we’ve been doing.”
With games on three out of four days, the Terps depth could come into play. Turgeon has deployed rotations of 11 guys thus far and keeping players fresh could be key. How deep Maryland truly is will be tested this weekend.
“Get a better idea of the rotation. Who I can trust, who I can’t. Hopefully our depth is going to show. Three-in-four days, hopefully that’s gonna help us,” Turgeon said.
While larger opponents may loom, the Terps know that they can’t look ahead. Similarly to what they’ve been doing all year, they will not overlook their first opponent.
“Going into this tournament, trying to take it one game at a time. Let’s focus on what we gotta focus on and let everything else fall into place,” said junior Darryl Morsell. “So right now, we’re just focused on Temple.”
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