Terps Get a Lump of Coal Heading Into Holiday
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Dez Wells had said the Terrapins couldn't use the "C Word" when Mark Turgeon told them he didn't want to talk about Christmas before the game against Boston University.
Apparently Maryland didn't use the "D Word" much either, the Terrapins' defense again letting down in an 83-77 loss Saturday to Boston University in Comcast Center. The up-and-down Terrapins dropped to 7-5 on the year, their two-game winning streak snapped, and Turgeon and his team will spend a restless holiday looking for answers.
"I think we get to go home over break and start to regroup a little bit," said Evan Smotrycz. "They scored in the 80s and they were getting in the paint way too much, but I can't pinpoint one thing. I'll have to watch the tape."
Smotrycz and his teammates might want to fast-forward through a lot of this one, the Terrapins rarely able to sustain their effort, and just as Turgeon had feared, playing a lot without focus.
"We didn't start the game very well and we didn't finish the half very well," said Turgeon. "We played with energy to start the second half. We got it tied and then we didn't play particularly smart after that. We just have to keep trying. We get tired. I just have to play Jake (Layman) and Dez (Wells) until they drop. Evan got tired and their bench was good."
Wells still chipped in a team-high 18 points to go with nine rebounds and five blocked shots in 36 minutes. Smotrycz bounced back from his 1-for-12 shooting night against Florida Atlantic to hit 7-of-14 against the Terriers (7-5), and finish with 15 points and a career high 13 rebounds.
He was the focal point inside BU's 2-3 zone, scoring and dishing (five assists), but the Terrapins missed two many close-in shots, part of a larger picture that has Turgeon scratching his head. "I've been coaching a long time and the ball is not bouncing our way," he said. "And you have to create that. We missed 11 free throws, we had two threes go all the way in and out. We have to figure how to make the ball bounce our way. I've never been through something like this. That said, the break might be coming at a good time."
The Terriers took it to the Terps early, building a lead that stretched to 10 at the half. Maryland had little success against the BU backcourt of Maurice Watson, Jr., and D.J. Irving. They were often unstoppable, at least by the Terrapins' tepid defensive effort. Irving hit 7-of-11 shots and had 25 points, while Watson had 13 points, seven assists and three steals, part of 10 Terrier thefts.
"Their guard play was out of this world," said Turgeon, particularly disappointed in Maryland's ballscreen defense, a continuing theme this season.
Smotrycz spoke of kind of a bemused frustration in the Terrapin locker room, confidence still apparent and the team sure they can turn things around, starting Dec. 29, in the next game against Tulsa, also in the Comcast Center.
The Terrapins have already dropped two home games, this perhaps the worst Comcast setback since the Jan. 7, 2009 nonconference loss to Morgan State.
"We have to respond," said junior Jonathan Graham, who had five points and two rebounds in 15 minutes and helped defensively. "And the best way to respond is to come back and go to work. We made some crucial turnovers that we shouldn't have made. At the end of the day, the game is about making plays and getting stops, and there were times we didn't do that."
Maryland was down three just under five minutes when Dom Morris canned a 15-footer, and then after Nick Faust missed an ill-advised baseline three, the burly Morris grabbed Watson's errant three, and got a three-point play on a stickback to make it 68-61 at 4:26.
After another Terrapin turnover, one of 17 on the day, Watson dribbled down the middle for a layup and a nine-point lead. Layman hit one of two at the line and then Faust canned two freebies to make it 70-64 at 2:36.
The Terriers broke the press and worked the clock down before Watson got in the lane, and Smotrycz backed off just enough to allow him to hit a short jumper. Charles Mitchell got a rebound at the other end and hit the traditional one of two at the line to make it 72-65 at 1:48. Two Watson free throws made it a nine-point game again.
The Terrapins couldn't make up ground in a free throw shooting contest, hitting just 15-of-26 (57.7 percent). Boston University was 23-of-36 (63.9 percent), including 11-of-16 in the final two minutes, Maryland forced to foul.
Maryland got it down to six twice more, and then got even closer in the final minute. It was 79-73 after Smotrycz hit a three-pointer at 42.5 seconds, and then 80-75, when Faust got a stickback with 25 seconds left.
Irving hit one of two at the line, and Wells scored inside from Roddy Peters to make it 81-77 at 13.9 seconds. Layman, who finished with 14 points (just three in the second half), fouled out at 12.2 seconds, and John Papale put the final nail in the Comcast coffin with two free throws.
"When the game was on the line (58-57) we just didn't do what we had to do to win the game," said Turgeon. "If we could have got the lead, put a little pressure on them, it could have been a different outcome but we couldn't do that."
Cedric Hankerson had hit a three at 11:51 to break a 51-51 tie but after a Layman free throw and a Smotrycz jumper, it was tied back up. Wells hit a jumper to give Maryland a 56-55 lead at 9:08, the Terrapins first lead since 8:30 of the first half.
BU would take the lead back, and when Nathan Dieudonne hit a three and Hankerson scored on a drive, the Terriers' lead was 62-58 at 6:20, and the Terrapins wouldn't lead again. During that stretch, Peters missed a driving bank shot and then Layman and Faust both missed open looks from beyond the arc. Turgeon took a timeout to set an offense against the 2-3 zone, which the Terriers varied from only on a couple of possessions.
This was one of those times, though, and Smotrycz turned the ball over trying to dribble, Hankerson adding two free throws for a six-point lead.
Layman got one of two free throws and then out of the press, Peters got a steal and lay-in to make it 64-61 with 5:29 remaining. That's when the 6-7, 240-pound Morris took over around the basket.
Morris would finish with 16 points, hitting 6-of-9 shots, and Hankerson came off the bench to hit 4-of-8, and notch 14 points and seven rebounds. Maryland had a 42-34 rebounding edge but BU's 12 offensive boards were usually in big situations.
"We're definitely frustrated right now but we know after this break we've got two games coming back (Tulsa and NC Central) and then Georgia Tech," said Layman. "We've got a lot to look forward to."
BU did a great job limiting Layman, pointing their zone toward him and aware of not giving him looks even though Turgeon stressed freeing him up in timeouts. "Boston was really targeting me a little more on the defensive end," said Layman. "In the second half we were getting the ball inside and getting layups, and we were attacking, too. Our offense wasn't the problem in the second half.
The Terrapins had opened the second half with a little fire, scoring seven of the first nine points to close to 44-39 at 17:54 on Wells' three-point play in transition. But, as they had done all day, the Terriers had an answer, Irving getting two free throws and then after a Smotrycz hoop, hitting a baseline three as BU broke the press. The lead was 49-41 at 17:04.
Smotrycz scored on a baseline drive to start a 6-0 run, Faust scoring a drive and Graham hitting a reverse lay-up from Peters to make it 49-47 at 13:39.
When Wells laid in a Faust lob at 12:25, the score was tied at 51-51. The previous possession, Faust had picked Irving's pocket and Irving picked up his fourth foul at 12:35, holding Faust to avoid a fastbreak breakaway.
But the Terps didn't make a big play with Irving out, just hung around. Peters had eight points, seven assists but also five turnovers. Faust had 10 points nad six rebounds off the bench, with two assists and two steals. Cleare finished with four points (the first two buckets) and three rebounds and Mitchell had a subpar effort with three points and four rebounds. He has had six or less points in three of the last four games.
The absence of guard Seth Allen was acute in this one, Wells and Layman wearing down on the wings. One time Turgeon said Wells signaled to come out but Turgeon didn't have anyone he could put in and had to keep him out there. Varun Ram played just two minutes and struggled.
"You turn the page, you move on to the next thing," said Graham. "We have a long season, a very, very long season. This was a wakeup call for us. There are two ways to respond to this. There's the negative way and the positive way. In that locker room we chose the positive way."
Peters scored on a drive at the horn to bring Maryland to within 42-32 at the half. The Terrapins were miserable on defense in the first half, Turgeon's worst fears confirmed, and started out shooting so poorly they quickly fell behind. Even though they warmed to hit 11 of 25 (44 percent) by the half, 11 turnovers killed them as Boston University scored at will.
"The ballscreen defense wasn't very good," said Smotrcyz. "They were able to turn the corner and get shots for other guys, and get confidence."
The Terriers shot 46.7 percent (14-30), were 7-of-15 behind the arc, many of those wide open, and held their own on the glass, Maryland with a slim 18-15 edge. Maryland trailed by as many as 12 points late in the half, and didn't have an answer for Irving who hit 6-of-8 shots on his way to 15 first half points.
Layman had 11 on 4-of-5 shooting (3-4 from three), which means the rest of the team was seven of 20 from the field.
The Terrapins had a short-lived lead before BU ran off nine straight points and went ahead 26-18, when Papale hit his second fastbreak three during the run. In between Morris muscled inside for a three-point play over Cleare.
Layman hit his second three to stop the run. When he got another one at 3:34, Maryland was within 28-26. But BU stepped on the gas again, spurting out 12-3 to lead 40-29 at 56.4 seconds when Morris scored on a give-and-go.
Maryland had trailed 12-5 at 12:13 when Irving scored on a drive, part of a 9-1 Terrier run. Boston University wasn't setting the world on fire offensively but the Terriers hit four of their first 11 shots while Maryland was bricking to a 2-of-12 start from the field against BU's 2-3 zone.
Wells hit a baseline three at 11:56 to make it 12-8. Irving answered with a three on a poor defensive rotation. The Terrapins, warming up, would hit five of their next seven shots, including a three by Layman and another by Faust.
When Layman scored in transition off a Faust steal and inbounds-save, the Terps had crawled within one, and then a Smotrycz drive down the middle of the zone for a lay-in made it 18-17, Maryland, at 9:45, wrapping up a 13-4 spree.
The Terrapins missed seven of their first nine shots and dug an early 8-4 hole, Irving and Morris hitting threes for the Terriers. Cleare had Maryland's first four points, scoring inside twice from Smotrycz, the second time after the forward fell on a drive and kept his dribble alive before feeding Cleare for a dunk to make it 4-3.
"We're going to try to figure it out," said Turgeon. "Maybe we're feeling too much pressure. Maybe we need to relax. Guys feel too much pressure on their shots, maybe they just need to relax and have more fun. We'll see if we can play better that way."
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