The Maryland Terrapins basketball team literally kills me. Mark Turgeon, the third year coach, is a coach who preaches defense, defense, and a little more defense. Well Mark, if you were a defensive coordinator for the football team than I wouldn’t have a problem with your mentality. However, you’re a basketball coach and the problem with this team isn’t their defense, but it’s their lack of ability to run a half court offense and do the one thing that matters: put the ball in the bucket.
In the 1st half of tonight’s game against Syracuse, the Terps shot a whopping 31% from the field. In a 20-minute time span, they made seven shots. Let that number sink in for a second…….SEVEN. In that same half, the Terps went 5 of 13 from behind the arc for a grand 3-point percentage of 38.5%. That’s not a bad number if your shooting at least 40% from the field, but they weren’t. The Terps rely way too heavily on the deep ball when the simple fact is that nobody is a consistent shooter from behind the arc. Seth Allen was the only player scoring any points. He came out in the 1st half and stroked 4 of 5 from behind the arc. Now that’s great and you got to love seeing that kind of production from your point guard. But he also had 3 turnovers, including 2 traveling violations. This is D-1, ACC basketball and you’re a starting point guard. Is it too much of us to ask that you know how to dribble the ball or properly use a pivot foot? Unfortunately, no other player is worth talking about in the 1st half. As a team, they had 12 turnovers in the 1st and half of them came from their 2 primary ball handlers: Allen and Dez Wells. However, I got to give my boys some credit because even with all the turnovers and missed shots they only found themselves down 8 points at the end of the half. String together a solid second half and the Terps could steal a victory from the #4 team in the nation.
And what do you know? They did, in fact, put in a better 2nd half performance. The boys cut their turnovers in half. Allen hit a couple more big threes. Wells decided to wake up from his customary 1st half coma and figured he’d put some points on the board. Syracuse couldn’t hit a three to save their life in the 2nd, but Maryland couldn’t quite get out of the hole they dug themselves early. Maryland (I mean Allen and Wells) actually outscored Syracuse in the 2nd half 31 to 25, but it just wasn’t enough. When the third highest scorer on your squad has 6 points, you have no business winning a basketball game. Syracuse did all they could to give us possession with missed 3 after missed 3, but our inability to run a half court offense proved to be even worse. The Terps didn’t bother to try and penetrate the zone, but instead did their prototypical passing around the top of the key until they heave up a shot with about 7 seconds left on the shot clock. That only gives them one chance to make a basket and those chances aren’t good with the way the team was shooting tonight. Don’t get me wrong, the Terps have heart and they didn’t lose tonight because they didn’t want it. They gave it everything they got and took Syracuse to the wire before losing by two. Unfortunately, you win games by moving off the ball, hitting the open man, and penetrating the zone, not by just wanting it.
We expect the turnovers. We expect the spotty shooting. We know Allen will come out and play. We know Wells will struggle early but turn it on later. We know Layman and Evan Smortycz, “our sharp shooters”, will shy away from the limelight in these big games (both shot 1-4 from behind the arc and had 6 and 5 pts respectively). We know all this because we’ve seen it before and week after week, Turgeon does nothing to change it. The last 16 seconds of tonight’s game shows that it comes down to coaching, plain and simple. Maryland, down by 1, gathered in a rebound with 16 seconds left, Wells pushed it up the court with Nick Faust ahead of him. There were 3 defenders back waiting for them. Wells took one dribble too many and bounce-passed the ball to Faust, who was too deep under the basket to get a good look. He gets blocked, the ball gets turned over, Syracuse goes to the line and pretty much puts the game away. With 16 seconds left and two times out remaining, Turgeon has to make the read that we don’t have numbers, call a timeout and set up a play to get a good, high percentage shot inside. Cut down the silly turnovers, take higher percentage shots and get the ball inside more. If we do those three things tonight, we win the game. How many winnable games does Turgeon have to watch us lose before he actually changes his style of play?