Defensive Woes Continue for Terps

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland's defense struggled once again in a loss to Boston University at the Comcast Center.

Jake Layman, Post-Game Boston University from Terrapin Times on Vimeo.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The game had just resumed after the first half's last media timeout, and finally Maryland looked like it would seize control and put a rather average Boston University (7-5) team in its place. Terps wing Jake Layman (14 points) had just drilled an elbow 3 to draw UMD within 28-26 at the 3:38 mark, seemingly sparking an offense that had struggled against BU's zone.

But on cue, the Terriers responded with back-to-back daggers, first a D.J. Irving 3-pointer and then a Cedric Hankerson trey to go up 34-28. By the end of the half BU had a 10 point lead, exploiting a sieve-like defense more porous than a spaghetti strainer. Though the Terps played better in the second half, it wasn't enough to put BU away in an eventual 83-77 loss at the Comcast Center, Maryland's (7-5) second home defeat this season.

"We can't score 77 at home and lose," said Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon, who has lamented the defensive effort all season. "We have to get a shot blocker in there. We have no presence at the rim. We're trying the press, the zone, doing all this stuff to kick-start us. But guys got to be able to guard a lot better. And we're fouling too much, I've been saying that for awhile now. I could keep you guys [reporters] here all day…"

The Terriers ended up shooting almost 47 percent in the first half, and nailed 7-of-15 shots from beyond the arc. Irving, who finished with a game-high 25 points, canned all three of his 3s on his way to a 15-point first 20 minutes. Forward Dom Morris scored 10 of his 16 points in the first half, while Hankerson totaled half of his 14.

The Terps routinely failed to pick up shooters, switch on ball screens, or aggressively respond when the Terriers swung the ball around the perimeter. Maryland held BU to just 3-of-11 beyond the arc in the second half, but the damage was done in the first 20 minutes.

"I really don't know what it was. The ball screen defense, it wasn't that good," said Terps forward Evan Smotrycz, who finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds. "And [BU] started hitting shots and gaining confidence. … Then they were getting into the paint too much."

Indeed, the interior defense was exploited as well, with Maryland forward Charles Mitchell looking a step slow, while Shaq Cleare was exploited several times before ceding way to Jonathan Graham. There were at least three occasions during the first half when Irving came off a screen, beat a Maryland defender and then streaked down the lane for an easy layup.

"We talked about doing things better, listening better, timeouts, huddles, executing -- and we just didn't. We don't force guys on ball screens. We're not forcing guys and they go in and get a layup," Turgeon said. "I've said that 250 times… Ultimately it falls on me, but we just have to get better."

When the Terriers did gain inside position, Maryland compounded the problem by fouling them. The Terps committed an eye-popping 27 fouls, and though BU only shot 64 percent from the line, they still managed to make 23 of 36 at the stripe.

During one telling sequence, after Maryland had cut the lead to 20-18, Cleare let Dom Morris get behind him on a back screen, then stoking the fire by hacking the BU forward. Morris made the layup anyway and then capped the 3-point play with a free throw.

"[BU] shot 36 free throws to our 26 at home," Turgeon said. "We fouled too much, gave them some easy looks … We are what we are."

To its credit, Maryland did battle back in the second frame and buckled down defensively. UMD held BU to 38 percent shooting in the second half and 27 percent from deep. The Terps even took the lead, 56-55, at the 9:06 mark and looked ready to make a run.

"Defense creates offense. It starts with getting stops. We started doing that in the second half," Graham said. "If we continue to do that we'll be fine."

But they didn't continue to do that, at least on this afternoon. Following that 56-55 advantage, UMD immediately gave it up on a BU layup. And after the Terps regained the lead, 58-57, on a Smotrycz layup, the Terriers responded seconds later with a 3-pointer. Maryland never again seriously threatened as BU stretched the lead to as many as nine over the last eight minutes.

"For some guys it probably felt like every time we got the lead they would just come back down … and make a 3-pointer," Layman said. "Give us that dagger shot. Sometimes we're hanging our heads and that's something we can't do. We have to persevere through those situations and get the lead then go down and defend."

Of course, Boston does deserve credit, as Turgeon and several of the players pointed out. The Terriers came out firing and never waivered, even when Maryland made a comeback. BU finished with four players in double-figures, including Morris (16), Hankerson (14), Irving (25) and elite point guard Maurice Watson (13), who actually did not play particularly well and had four turnovers.

"[BU's] guards are tremendous and they were making shots all night," said Graham, who had five points and two rebounds. "Bottom line."

Turgeon said one of the main problems continues to be lack of depth. He noted how Dez Wells, who had a team-high 18 points, looked winded at times but couldn't come out of the game due to unreliable replacements. Winded players, of course, leads to sloppy and slow defense – the story of Maryland's season so far.

"The ball is not bouncing our way and we've got to figure out a way to do it," said Turgeon, who assumed blame for the depth issues. "We just have to … I've never been through something like this."

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