Armed with some unique weapons, Mark Turgeon is making the best of them.

This was supposed to be a transition year for Mark Turgeon, the fourth-year coach of the Maryland Terrapins.

First, there was the ill-fitting move to the Big Ten. Maryland had been a founding member of the Atlantic Coast Conference since 1952, and through the years the Terps have been a part of historic ACC rivalries, not least of which were their epic games with Duke. And while an ACC member, they claimed the 2002 National Championship. Geographically, Maryland is firmly entrenched in the ACC footprint, but geography is having a decreasing impact on the football-driven conference realignment phenomenon. Therefore, Turgeon’s club was sent to the Midwest to compete in the Big Ten.

Second, Turgeon saw a mass of defections from his program in the offseason. Five players, including starting point guard Seth Allen, left the program after the 2013-2014 season. The five transfers accounted for over half of Maryland’s scoring last season.

Due in large part to the defections, Maryland was picked to finish tenth in the Big Ten Preseason Poll. But things have turned out quite differently. Maryland (18-3, 6-2 Big Ten) has been the surprise team of the season. Turgeon has the No. 16 Terps second in the Big Ten standings, trailing only fifth-ranked Wisconsin.

Maryland owes much of its success to a trio of players – Dez Wells, Jake Layman and Melo Trimble – who all power the Terrapins’ offensive attack in different ways. This triumvirate accounts for 44.2 of Maryland’s 73 points per game, and Turgeon is using this trio’s unique gifts to exceed the lowly preseason expections.

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In advance of Maryland’s recent 89-70 loss at Indiana, the Hoosiers’ head coach Tom Crean praised Wells’s passing ability from the post. Crean, who coached Dwyane Wade at Marquette, had this to say about Wells:

“Wells is as good of a passer as there is in the conference in my mind. He’s doing things in that low post that we were doing with Dwyane Wade back at Marquette. I’m not calling him Dwyane Wade, I’m saying he has the ability to do that out of a low post. It’s an unbelievable weapon. When you start talking about length and versatility and size and skill set, Wells is as hard a match up as there is in the conference.”

In fact, this ability is part of Turgeon’s offensive arsenal. Here’s a look at how the Terps isolate Wells in the post and utilize the combo guard’s unique skills there.

In two first half possessions in their 68-66 win at Michigan State, Turgeon gets Wells into the post by backscreening for him early in the possession. The set begins with a dribble handoff to Wells, bringing him to the wing.

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From there, Maryland reverses the ball and backscreens for Wells to bring him into the post.

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Now, Wells has the ability to score or create an opportunity for a teammate. Maryland is blessed with shooters like Layman and freshman Jerad Nickens, and therefore, for fear of leaving a shooter, Wells is often left to operate in the post alone.

To insure Wells stays free of a double team, Turgeon runs a staggered screen while Wells receives the ball in the post. This action occupies help defenders.

Page 003Next, the player that enters the ball to Wells cuts to the weakside corner. Wells explores middle from the post and has the options of scoring, passing out if a double comes or dumping off to the cutting big man if there is a post-double.

Page 004As you will see when Wells receives the ball in this set in the post, he is looking first to pass. His own offense is secondary. He looks for the skip pass or the cutter before beginning his own attack.

Here the Terps open the game at Purdue by getting Wells into the post using screen-the-screener action from a “Horns” set. Once again, Wells looks opposite from the post and fans the ball to the weakside for a Layman three.

Wells is a capable scorer as he averages 13.6 points per game, but it is this inside-outside ability and his passing skills from the post that is his most dangerous weapon and a unique feature of the Maryland offense.

Perhaps the most intriguing of the Terps trio is the 6’9″ junior swingman Layman. During his three years in College Park, his game has improved and so has his NBA draft stock. With three-point range (40.3%) and the ability to post smaller guards, Layman can hurt defenses inside or outside.

Layman plays both wing positions for Turgeon, but it is at the forward position where his skills and athleticism create mismatches. Turgeon often uses him in “Horns” sets and handoffs to induce switches and mismatches.

In this set from a 73-64 victory at Oklahoma State, Layman is on the left elbow of the “Horns” set. He follows the pindown with a dribble handoff. His defender helps and Layman knocks down the open three.

Against switching teams, Turgeon likes to use dribble handoffs to create mismatches. And when Layman gets a smaller guard on him, he takes him to the post, as we see in this “Horns” set against Michigan State.

In this set coming out of a timeout, we see Layman’s versatility on full display. Turgeon goes to him off of a UCLA cut and a downscreen. The bigger and slower Michigan State defender has no answer.

Metrics are showing that Layman is one of the most efficient players in the country. Layman has a true shooting percentage (TS%) of 0.633 and an eFG% of 59.1%. ( Layman also pulls down a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game.

In Layman, Turgeon has a multi-skilled piece he can use at three positions based on matchups. Pieces like that help teams win.

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Trimble has been the main factor in the Terps surprise season. A freshman point guard from nearby Upper Marlboro, Maryland, Trimble has take over leadership of the team and has been electrifying.

Turgeon has entrusted Trimble with his team and given him the structure to most effectively use his skills. Trimble plays with proper pace, and can shoot coming off screens. He is an effective pick-and-roll player and he has a flair for the big shot. Coach Turgeon uses some baseline floppy sets to utilize Trimble’s shooting and attacking ability, in which he has the option to use single or double screens along the baseline to free himself of his defender.

Once Trimble gives up the ball, he often then becomes the desired scoring option and has screeners to work off of. On the catch, he can then score via the shot or the drive. Turgeon uses these baseline screens to get Trimble moving and setting up opportunities without the ball.

Additionally, Turgeon gives Trimble the freedom to finish possessions using the high ball screen. The Terps spread the floor around the ball screen and allow Trimble to collapse defenses and create drive-and-kick threes. Trimble can also use his smooth tempo to find the screener rolling to the basket in the pick-and-roll.

When the Terps need a big shot, they go to Trimble. He is a playmaker, and often Trimble is creating for other teammates who are spaced around him. With players like Layman and Wells available, Trimble does not have to take things upon himself and force shots. But when he has taken things upon himself, the results have often been spectacular.

Trimble (16.3 points per game) has done a lot of his damage at the free throw line. He is third in the country in free throws made with 131, and tenth in the country with 149 attempts. He is converting 89% percent of his foul shots.

His penetration ability is leading to points at the stripe for the Terps.  Turgeon uses ball screens, handoffs and “Horns” sets to help Trimble collapse opposing defenses. And Trimble has the strength to finish through contact.

The prevailing question in the Big Ten this season has been who is the second best team behind Wisconsin. Behind this big three, the Terps are answering it. The Badgers are clearly the class of the conference, but Maryland is emerging as a contender.

The Terps get their shot at the Badgers when they host Frank Kaminsky and company on February 24th. However, there are plenty of pivotal games for them between now and then. And if that February contest is to have Big Ten championship implications, the trio of Wells, Layman and Trimble must carry Maryland forward.

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Randy Sherman

- Owner & Founder of Radius Athletics - A Basketball Coaching Consulting Firm
- NCAA Contributor to and
- 197 wins in nine seasons as a head basketball coach at the interscholastic level

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