- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 24, 2011

Maryland’s undermanned roster hoped three games in Puerto Rico would mark it as an overlooked team, a bunch capable of exceeding its modest expectations.

Instead, the Terrapins absorbed a sobering lesson.

“We have a lot of work to do,” forward James Padgett said. “We can be a much better team.”

They probably can’t be too much worse than last Sunday, when they fell to 2-2 with an 89-63 pummeling against Iona in the fifth-place game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

Maryland’s breakdowns existed everywhere. It committed 26 turnovers, stumbled into foul trouble and allowed Iona to shoot 65.7 percent from the floor in the second half.

It left first-year coach Mark Turgeon irate at the time, and nearly 72 hours to digest the defeat only mildly mellowed his outlook.

“Hopefully, being embarrassed a couple times will change the way they approach things,” Turgeon said Wednesday. “Right now, we’re more finger-pointing and blaming others than blaming ourselves. I blame myself. I mean, we looked like we weren’t even coached at times down there. I don’t know if I ever coached a team that didn’t look coached.”

The most pressing question for Maryland, which plays host to Florida Gulf Coast (2-3) on Friday at Comcast Center, is how quickly it can develop into a more formidable team.

Turgeon observed that besides senior guard Sean Mosley, his roster is littered with inconsistent players. With only seven scholarship players available, only two of whom had started a game before this season, that comes as little surprise.

Two losses nonetheless already have tested Turgeon’s patience, and he acknowledged Wednesday that determining a starting lineup isn’t nearly as significant on a daily basis as figuring out which five players are the best options to have on the court at the end of each game.

A lack of collective maturity hasn’t helped. How quickly that is developed likely will dictate how soon the Terps can move beyond the play that led them to absorb a pair of 20-point defeats in Puerto Rico.

“You can’t take a big leap,” Mosley said. “You have to take small steps at this type of stage. Some things aren’t going to happen overnight. It’s going to take time and progress to try to get where you want to be. March is a long way from now.”

That offers some hope — not to mention some concern. Certainly, the Terps have the potential to progress.

Then again, last weekend could have been a glimpse of what is to come, hardly a settling prospect as Turgeon ventures deeper into his first season in College Park.

“It’s easy to be bad,” Turgeon said. “It’s hard to be good. Right now, we’re taking the easy way out. We don’t run the defense because that’s hard. We don’t box out because that’s hard. We don’t execute our plays against pressure because that’s hard. So we’re always taking the easy way out. Are we going to toughen up? We’ll see. If we don’t, it’s going to be a heck of a long four months.”

NOTES: Guard Pe’Shon Howard, who has yet to play this season because of a broken foot, underwent an MRI exam Tuesday. Turgeon had not learned the results of the exam when he spoke with reporters Wednesday afternoon. Howard, the Terps’ projected starting point guard, is projected to be out until January.

• Friday is the first meeting between Maryland and Florida Gulf Coast, which moved up to Division I in 2007-08. The Terps are 6-1 all-time against current members of the Atlantic Sun. Last year’s 85-62 defeat of North Florida was Maryland’s lone game against an Atlantic Sun team in the past six seasons.

• Maryland’s Dec. 14 game against Florida International at Comcast Center, originally a 7 p.m. game scheduled for ESPNU, was shifted to 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.

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