Terps need to walk the walk

Terps need to walk the walk
February 28, 2013, 8:30 am
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Gary Williams talks Maryland's tourney chances

It’s actually a pretty simple recipe.

If you start with shoddy defense and a mediocre rebounding effort and throw in a dash of poor choices on the offensive end, then you end up with the kind of dinner the Maryland Terrapins were forced to eat by the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets last night in Atlanta.

All week long, Terp players had talked about the sense of urgency that would be needed for the last four games of the season – three of which would come in enemy territory on the road. Evidently, Mark Turgeon’s post-game messages will not just include the usual litany talk of defensive effort and offensive execution. It will also include a lesson to the team about walking the walk if they’re going to talk the talk. 

The game’s final tally of 78-68 may not have been indicative of the scope of the win for Tech. Maryland started the game well and had a nice 11-2 run late in the first half after the Jackets had seized control of the game and taken a ten point lead but, for the most part, this was a fairly one-sided affair. The second half run that the Terps had hoped for never actually materialized and Tech held them at a ten point distance for much of the second half.

The game was disappointing on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to start. Everyone this side of Joe Lunardi knew how important this game was to this team but it probably wasn’t reflected in the effort and most certainly was not reflected in the mental investment in the game. To a team with little margin for error, their continued issues with turnovers has proven very costly. The final stats had the Terps guilty of six but, if unforced errors and bad choices were tossed in, the final tally would surely have been more than doubled.

Sophomore point guard Nick Faust, coming off his best outing of the season against Clemson last weekend, struggled from the start and was unable to provide the same kind of direction he did against the Tigers. He finished with six turnovers in 23 minutes but was hardly alone in terms of quality of play.

The three headed point guard of Faust, freshman Seth Allen and junior Pe’Shon Howard combined for just four assists versus seven turnovers but also pitched in a number of bad choices running the offense that lead to either missed opportunities or poor shot selection.

The final stats show the Terps shot a semi-respectable 43% but a number of those makes came after the game had been decided. The fact that their hit the last two three point attempts is the only reason they finished 4-19 behind the arc. For most of the night they got nothing to fall.

It would appear the goal of the NCAA tournament is slipping from this team’s hands more and more each minute. Their struggles on the road have continued and appear to spell doom for being a part of March Madness.

After the game, head coach Mark Turgeon was understandably confused about his team’s preparation and performance and he apportioned the blame across the board – beginning with himself. Perhaps the truth is that the twelve game run this team went on through November and December masked some fatal flaws that we just couldn’t see without the microscope of top flight competition. 

For much of the season this team was able to hang its hat on its defense and rebounding. Yet in three of their last five outings the team has allowed the opponent to shoot close to or better than 50%. Georgia Tech shot 26-51 (51%) for the game but flirted with the upper 50’s for a good portion of the game and also totaled 22 assists collectively. They also became the third team of the season – in fact that the third team in this five game stretch- that outrebounded Maryland.

The Terps lost each of those three games.

So…where to from here?

For starters, Maryland will head to Winston-Salem to play a Wake Forest team that has struggled this year but had their best win of the season on their home court last weekend against Miami. In addition, Wake will have the added emotion of having favorite son Chris Paul in the building to have his jersey retired and the game is already a sellout. 

Who knows, perhaps that kind of crowd and afternoon are just the thing to conjure up some emotion out of a team that currently seems devoid of it. It was just a short ten days ago that the Terps beat then number two Duke in an epic game at Comcast and, for one brief and tantalizing moment, were the talk of college basketball. There is no doubt this group is capable enough but – for whatever reason- is currently incapable of getting it done away from Comcast Center.