There is absolutely no way to dress this one up.
The Maryland Terrapins lost their second consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference game, this time falling on the road to the Miami Hurricanes 54-47. It was a slugfest of a game between two similar teams that featured rugged play all around but was marred by offensive inefficiencies on both sides.
Miami made only 22 field goals on the night. They shot just under 35% (22-63) and an atrocious 38% from the foul line (5-13) and were outrebounded by the Terps 48-44.
And they won.
Maryland played the first twenty minutes of this game like they were still hung-over from the stinging loss at home to Florida State in their last outing. In that game they collapsed offensively in the second half against a ferocious Seminole defense and failed to execute collectively or make plays individually. In that game the Terps scored just 26 second half points and fell 65-62.
If it is at all possible the first half of the Maryland game was uglier than that last half against FSU. In fact, it was far uglier. It was a first half that must have had James Naismith rolling around in his grave. Over those first twenty minutes Maryland shot 6-28 (21%), 0-6 from the three point line and just 2-6 from the foul line.
Miami was hardly better. They shot 8-29 from the field and 0-4 from the foul line. That’s a combined 14-57 for the teams for the half and 2-10 from the foul line. Most of the five thousand plus in attendance must have wondered why they had left the beach to watch this.
Because of the offensive issues for both clubs the lead was just 19-14 Miami at the break.
The trick for Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon at the break at that point would be trying to figure out how to offensively jump start a team that – in the blink of an eye- seemed to have lost its scoring mojo. For most of the season his Terps have ranked in the top ten nationally in two areas- assists and shooting percentage. Coming into this game they were averaging 18 assists and shooting over 49% from the field.
The problem is, of course, that a lot of those numbers were amassed against the kind of competition that is far beneath the level of opponent they are playing now. While ACC teams have been able to ratchet up their defensive efforts against them, the Terps have not responded in kind on the offensive side of things. Their defensive and rebounding efforts have sustained them somewhat but not close to the level needed to overcome their current scoring issues.
One of the things that certainly do not help those issues is the fact that the Terps are turning the ball over at an alarming rate. They had five turnovers in the first four minutes of the game, eight in the first half and fifteen for the game against a team that never played any full court defense against them.
Conventional wisdom tells us that the best way to overcome shooting/scoring problems is to either get to the free throw line for some easy looks or to get something going on the fastbreak. Again, more problems arise….the team continues to be just average at the line when they get there and they seem to squander a lot of opportunities in transition.
The second half saw a better performance by both teams, thankfully. In the second half the Terps shot 41% and that seemed torrid by the first half standards. They cut the Hurricane lead to inside of five points a handful of times in the second period but never were able to manufacture a run to get them a lead. In fact, the Terps only held one lead at all in this game and that was when a James Padgett free throw made it 1-0 Maryland just ninety seconds into the game.
After enjoying a thirteen game winning streak, a two game skid for this team almost certainly has Terrapin nation wringing their collective hands. In the FSU game, Maryland seemed to have been taught a lesson about toughness and effort in the second half by the reigning ACC tournament champions. They responded tonight with the kind of physical effort they can take some pride in.
The problem is they seem to be struggling in some really critical areas. Some of them are as simple as shot selection. A few players are guilty of hoisting up shots without any semblance of an offensive set being run. Some appear to be struggling with their roles. On a team where there are ten players who deserve minutes, you sure better enter the game ready to step up and contribute. Each one of these guys were stars at some level and they notion of being a role player is not easy for young players to warm to.
In any case, just as the Terps weren’t all that great in running up that thirteen game streak, they aren’t as bad as they might seem in a two game slide. They’re a team that has 81% of its points generated by freshmen and sophomores and –as exciting as that is for the future - there will be plenty of stretches this year that will leave fans scratching their heads.
Turgeon is a very solid offensive coach and will figure things out in short order. The tough part of the struggles right now is the level of competition they have to deal with. Miami entered this game ranked number one in the computer for strength of schedule. The next game brings a North Carolina State Wolfpack team fresh off of a win against top ranked Duke into Comcast Center on Wednesday night that will catapult them upward in the national rankings.
The beauty of that is that redemption is just one game away.