During Penn State’s unlikely upset of No. 6 Michigan on Tuesday, the Nittany Lions had success implementing a three-quarter press, making the Wolverines uncomfortable and literally slowing down an offense that’s already the weaker unit of coach John Beilein’s team.
When Maryland men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon watched film of that game to prepare for the No. 24 Terps' matchup with Michigan on Saturday, he surely noticed the effectiveness of the press, as well as the Nittany Lions switching on nearly every screen, among other tendencies.
But Turgeon doesn't anticipate implementing too much from that game, or anything else he sees from the Wolverines' handful of losses.
The eighth-year head coach prefers to stay true to his team's strengths — and plus, considering the rest of the conference is also watching those games, Turgeon is more focused on ensuring the Terps don't become too predictable.
"We all try to steal. We watch a lot of film to see what works," Turgeon said. "But then again, Michigan is working on what Penn State probably did to them. So we'll do what we do; it's been pretty successful."
In Tuesday’s 70-56 win over No. 12 Purdue, though, Maryland also showed some of its evolution.
After taking more than 13 shots only once in the first 23 games of the year, forward Jalen Smith had a season-high 16 field goal attempts against Nebraska last week and followed that with 15 more against the Boilermakers.
"Stix is getting much more involved in our offense, which is what we need," Turgeon said. "It just takes time — we have so many new guys — to figure out how to implement them."
It was a particularly promising performance for Smith against Purdue, considering how quiet he was in the teams’ first meeting — a meager seven-point outing on 3-of-8 shooting.
It helped that Smith was the beneficiary of some stellar passes from forward Bruno Fernando, who drew double teams that freed up Smith under the basket Tuesday.
Fernando also has a significantly different profile than the one he brought into this year. Against Purdue, the 6-foot-10 forward had his third four-assist performance in the past seven games. Fernando didn't have more than two assists in any of the first 10 games this season, and managed three or more assists just twice in his freshman campaign.
"It was beaten into him. He was so good offensively [that] he kind of made it happen," Turgeon said. "Teams were like, 'Well, we better double him.' Much like last year, the game was too fast for him when he got double-teamed. Now, the game has slowed down for him."
The Terps double-team Fernando every day in practice to make sure he’s prepared for games, Turgeon said, but they don’t know how exactly to replicate the gameplan Michigan will use Saturday.
The Wolverines’ defense ranks first in the Big Ten and third in the nation with 57.8 points allowed per game, and Turgeon will have to wait and see how Michigan elects to handle the Maryland attack.
“Are they going to switch every screen? Are they going to switch just handoffs?” Turgeon said. “We’ll find out. They’re going to switch something, and just kind of getting used to it and taking advantage of what’s given.”
It’s just another reason for the Terps not to get too caught up in what they see on tape.
“Teams are different, so I haven’t looked at too much film [of Michigan losses],” guard Anthony Cowan said. “We just have to come out and play. … I think we’ll be OK.”