Sometimes after watching a game like the Maryland Terrapins 62-52 loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels you’re never quite sure whether to give all credit to an inspired home team or attribute the loss to a poor performance by the losing squad.
The truth, of course, is always in the middle somewhere.
In retrospect we could probably see the Tar Heel performance coming. They were coming off their best win of the season on the road against Florida State. They also had a full week off heading into this game to rest a team that is not overly deep and to prepare for the Terps. On top of that they also enjoyed the benefits of one of the more raucous crowds you’ll ever hear at the Dean Smith Center.
To a degree those things help to explain how North Carolina scored the first eight points of the game in just 87 seconds. While the Heels exploded out of the gate Maryland struggled in every phase of the game. In the first three minutes of the game EVERY Maryland starter had committed a turnover. It wasn’t just that they were missing shots…in a lot of cases they weren’t even getting shots.
Turgeon pressed every available button in that first half but never found a combination that offered him continuity on offense and containment on defense. Then – as if the missed shots and turnovers weren’t tough enough for him to stomach- Turgeon watched helplessly as the Heels turned Maryland’s offensive struggles into a 9-0 run to close the half with North Carolina up 42-20. Those bookend runs in the first half effectively decided the game.
In that first half the Terps didn’t get it done on either end of the floor. They turned the ball over 15 times in that half and they were unable to contain the two North Carolina players – Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo- that they knew they would have to limit coming into the game. Bullock had a magnificent first half and single handedly outscored the Terps 21-20. His 21 points come on just nine field goal attempts McAdoo was a force around the basket and pitched in 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks.
The second half ended up being all Maryland but, truth be told, it’s easy to come out and let it fly and score when you’re getting drilled at half. The team with the lead just doesn’t play with the same kind of intensity and effort and the team getting hammered doubles its efforts as it looks to regain some of the pride that was missing in the first half performance. This Maryland team never did quit and were buoyed by excellent second half showings from sophomore Dez Wells and freshman Charles Mitchell. Wells had 21 points on 8-11 shooting and Mitchell grabbed 11 rebounds to go along with 9 points.
Even with those efforts each had their struggles in this game. Wells may have been the best player on the floor for most of the game but he did have 5 turnovers, three of which were committed with nobody near him. Mitchell played with great energy but struggled to keep taller opponents off of the offensive backboards and gave up defensive position in the paint far too easily.
The end result was a deceptively close ten point win for North Carolina to improve to 12-5 overall and 2-2 in the league. The Terps fell to 14-4 and 2-3.
Here’s the gist of things for this team as it stands today:
The Terps desperately need to solve their issues on the offensive side of things and it starts right at the top. At different times Turgeon has used Pe’Shon Howard, Seth Allen and Nick Faust as point guards. Today Wells had some minutes there as well. As the level of competition has increased the production from the position has decreased. Today those four combined for 16 turnovers against just 4 assists. In some cases they will only be as good as those that they deliver passes to but the unforced errors hurt a team that has so little margin for error all of a sudden.
The play on the interior has leveled similarly. The problems at the power forward position for this team are well documented. Freshman Shaquille Cleare seemed to have fortified that spot in their recent win against 14th ranked NC State but his minutes were limited today because of severe foul trouble. Senior James Padgett has appeared lost at times and Mitchell is a freshman. Sophomore center Alex Len scored 10 points and had 5 rebounds today but we’ve come to expect more from him in 30 minutes of play – particularly in a big game like this.
That isn’t to single out any player or any group. When you win it’s done as a team and losses work the same way. Each one of those guys and their teammates continue to play their tails off on the defensive end, which is why they’re usually going to be in every game.
That defensive prowess and their rebounding is probably what this team will have to hang their collective hats on until they figure out what ails them on the offensive side of things. Since hanging 94 points on Virginia Tech in their ACC opener the Terps have scored 62, 47, 51 and 52 points in their last four games. Perhaps there is solace to be found in today’s second half when the Terps scored 32 points on 46% shooting. It felt almost “Showtime”-like after the last few games.
Maryland will host Boston College at 9 PM on Tuesday night at Comcast Center.