Turgeon's Terps put quite the scare into the Heels Saturday, going tooth for tooth with the best of the best in the conference up until the closing seconds. Yet, in the end it wasn't the little things, but rather one big thing that doomed the Terps.
We couldn't rebound, said Turgeon. I know I'm gonna watch the tape and be really, probably, disappointed in our effort on the glass. It's something I'm on these guys about. It was the number one key of the game for us.
While the Terps were only outrebounded by a margin of 46-39, it was the timely rebounds in critical late possessions that proved to be the difference.
I think some of them, they're just gonna be taller and longer than us and out-jump us and out-quick us because they had pretty talented players, said Turgeon. I challenged the guys before the game. I said, 'Challenge yourself, every time a shot goes up, to box out. How hard is that to do? James, every time a shot goes up box your man out. How hard is that to do? So, if you do it and Terrell does it, we probably got a chance to win the game.' Probably would've won the game.
Another key to the game, which the coaching staff stressed, was limiting the lethal Carolina transition game, which has been a trademark of Tar Heels basketball since Roy Williams arrival. While Maryland was able to largely slow down the Carolina running attack, they fell victim to the point guard extraordinaire that is Kendall Marshall. Marshall, the leading assist man in the ACC, ended the game with nine points and 16 assists. Maryland, as a team, tallied only seven assists.
That point guard is as good as I've ever seen, said Turgeon of Marshall. He's something else I like to think I can see things being a former point guard. He sees things coming on the break that he's really on another level.
The sheer size of Carolina proved to be a problem for the Terps early on, something that doomed them against Duke. Seven-foot forward Tyler Zeller registered the first three field goals of the game for the Heels, having his way with the undersized 6-foot-9 Ashton Pankey.
Carolina held an 11-7 advantage at the under-16 timeout. That's when Mark Turgeon made a size adjustment. Freshman center Alex Len and senior Berend Weijs, a pair of seven footers, made an immediate impact, limiting the Heels in the paint. The Terps used their defensive presence to storm back, taking a -1715 lead on two Nick Faust free throws at the 11:55 mark.
Maryland was able to keep the momentum going, hassling the Heels in transition defense and slashing to the basket, building their lead to 25-22 at the 7:59 mark.
Len had one of his best halves as a Terrapin in the first 20 minutes Saturday, making his presence known on both sides of the ball. The freshman finished the first half with eight points and three rebounds in 12 first half minutes.
Alex was really good, said Turgeon. I thought him and Berend in the first half changed the game. Alex was a lot more aggressive with the basketball I'm proud of him. He played against two really good players and he held his own.
Carolina stuck around however, getting some key baskets in transition, a facet of the game in which they are nationally renowned. A five point Terps' lead was quickly brought back to even, before a Pe'Shon Howard 3-pointer put Maryland up three with 4:30 remaining.
Zeller kept the Heels afloat during the closing minutes of the first half, entering halftime with a team-high 14 points and five rebounds. Yet his counterpart in the paint, Alex Len, got the last laugh of the half, putting back a James Padgett attempt with just seconds remaining to send the Terps into halftime, leading 40-37.
Carolina clawed their way back however, with a Kendall Marshall 3-pointer at 15:22 cutting the Terps lead to 48-44. An Alex Len goaltending call at 12:37 brought the game to a 50-50 tie. Yet Maryland responded quickly, netting two straight field goals in less than 30 seconds to take a 54-50 lead.
When opportunity arose midway through the second half, the Terps were unable to seize it. Zeller's fourth foul forced the Heels' big man out of the game with 11:49 remaining. Yet, a series of turnovers by the Terps allowed Carolina to take a 59-57 lead with 9:17 remaining.
Carolina was able to keep the lead around five and three for the rest of the game, making their hay on the offensive boards with numerous second-chance points. While the Terps continued to threaten, their inability to get a defensive stop hampered any hopes of a comeback. The Terps got back as close as one point, but could never regain the lead. A Barnes field goal with 1:02 remaining gave Carolina a 76-70 lead and proved to be the dagger.
Size was the key for the Heels in their hard-fought win. Zeller led the Heels with 22 points and seven rebounds, while John Henson added 17 points and 12 boards. Terrell Stoglin led the Terps with 20 points and six rebounds and Len chipped in with perhaps his best game as a Terp, going for 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks in 26 minutes.
Maryland had one of their better all-around shooting performances of the season on Saturday, going 25-of-61 (41.0%) from the field and an above-average 20-of-27 (74.1%) from the line. The Terps struggled from long range however, going 4-of-17 (23.5%) from beyond the arc.
Sitting at 3-5 in conference play, about halfway through, Turgeon is able to find some encouraging signs despite losing four of the last five games.
Well obviously we'd like to win a couple more, said Turgeon, citing the double-overtime Miami loss on Wednesday. I don't look at 3-5. I really don't. And I'm gonna look at the film and see how I can make them better The kids are growing up and the preparation is better. They're growing up. It's not there yet.
Maryland will get back on the court Tuesday night as they travel to South Carolina to take on Clemson (11-11, 3-5 ACC). Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. and the game will be aired on ESPNU.