Mark Turgeon had executed an almost perfect segue, deftly changing the subject from his team’s short-term struggles to how valuable a year this is for the Maryland basketball program.
Then came a dose of reality: A reminder of the Terrapins’ 59.4 percent production at the free throw line through six games.
“This was going really well,” Turgeon said as his head fell into his hands.
It was a reminder of Tuesday’s work at the foul line, a 15-for-25 performance in a 71-62 loss to Illinois. That actually ever-so-slightly improved the Terps’ percentage for the season.
But as Turgeon went down his roster, he doesn’t see reason for this to be a chronic problem. Terrell Stoglin and Sean Mosley have extended histories of shooting well at the foul line. Ashton Pankey and Berend Weijs are capable foul shooters for big men. James Padgett’s stroke has improved as well.
(Turgeon also insists guard Mychal Parker is a solid foul shooter in practice; at 4-for-17 this season, it hasn’t translated into games for the sophomore).
The eventual arrival of Alex Len and return of Pe’Shon Howard should help as well. It doesn’t change the early outcomes for Maryland (3-3), which meets Notre Dame on Sunday in the BB&T Classic, nor does it make free throw shooting the biggest concern to Turgeon.
“We still could have won that game with 10 free throws the other night,” Turgeon said. “I’ve had plenty of teams miss 10 in a game and win comfortably.”
As for answers?
“I don’t know what it is, really,” Pankey said. “I think everybody has good mechanics and good form. They just don’t fall for us. We shoot a lot of free throws in practice. We shoot like 4,000 a week as a team. In the game, it seems like it doesn’t fall.”
Mosley quoted the 4,000-foul-shots-a-week stat as well, though there’s an interesting subtext there. Turgeon is actually trying to de-emphasize free throw shooting as the Terps endure their early-season swoon.
That meant removing schedule free throw shooting from the daily practice plan. How well will that work, especially since Turgeon didn’t even mention he was doing it? That remains to be seen.
“They still walk to the foul line during water breaks and shoot them,” Turgeon said. “At the end of practice, we’ve had 50 free throws or 25 free throws. Everybody has to shoot them before they leave. That’s not on the practice plan anymore. Guys are still staying and doing it. Hopefully it’ll work. We’ll see.”