After losing their first game of the season to Penn State, the No. 7 Maryland Terrapins had over a week to prepare for their visit to Seton Hall. Despite missing their top two scorers and shooting 37 percent, the Pirates were able to squeak out a 52-48 victory. Here are my takeaways from the rather ugly contest.
Maryland’s lack of shooting was exposed
The Terps came into Thursday night’s game shooting 30.8 percent from three and their 5-21 mark on Thursday will not improve that number. Part of that can be attributed to Seton Hall’s defense.
On the perimeter, guards Quincy McKnight and Anthony Nelson used their length and athleticism to disrupt the Terps rhythm, as they forced 17 turnovers. On the interior, the combination of Romaro Gill and Ike Obiagu (both 7’2”) made it nearly impossible for the Terps to generate any points down low. The Pirates finished with 15 blocked shots, compared to the Terps 14 made field goals.
“When they’re in their getting blocks, we’re not able to finish around them. We just gotta be smarter with drawing fouls or kicking out. Not trying to go straight up into their body,” said sophomore Aaron Wiggins. “I mean they were really tough. They were jumping straight up, they weren’t fouling.”
While the Terps struggled to find open looks, it was infrequent that they made the shots that were uncontested. Wiggins and Eric Ayala have seen a major dip in three-point percentage this season and that continued Thursday with the duo going a combined 2-9 from deep. A 12 game sample size is no longer just a slump and it appears the Terps may just be a poor outside shooting team.
First half woes continue
A common theme for the Terps has been the inability to come ready to play. Against all of their opponents ranked in the top 100 in Ken Pom the Terps had a -3.6 scoring margin in the first 15 minutes, according to the Washington Post.
This time, the Terps struggled for the entire half managing a season-low 18 points on 24 percent shooting. This was heightened by a stretch where they converted just one of 16 attempts from the field. They also turned the ball over ten times which gave the Pirates, who were severely challenged in the half-court themselves, an opportunity to run out and get transition buckets.
“We didn’t play well. We’re not playing with a lot of confidence right now and I gotta figure out a way to give our guys confidence,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “We didn’t execute very well…we gotta get better at a lot of things and one is confidence.”
Maryland misses Bruno Fernando
Thursday’s contest felt like the first time the services of Bruno Fernando were sorely needed. Last season when the Terps struggled offensively, they could work through the center. Against Seton Hall last December, Fernando finished with 19 points. Thursday when things were going poorly for the Terps, there was no Fernando to provide an emphatic slam or rejection to give his team a boost.
Fernando is, obviously, not on the roster anymore and Maryland will need Jalen Smith to become more of a presence inside like he was earlier in the season. Seton Hall is somewhat of an exception with two-seven footers, but strong post play is a staple of the Big Ten.
Coaching and big game experience matter
Up to this point, Turgeon has done a more than capable job with this roster and getting the young squad where they need to be. But in South Orange, Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard had the coaching edge.
The Pirates used a variety of man and zone defenses to throw off the Terps and it clearly worked, holding Maryland to a season-low 48 points. With less than 40 seconds to go, the Terps trailed by three and had the ball on the baseline with a chance to tie. Willard switched his team from man to zone and the Terps were bewildered. Darryl Morsell miscalculated a throw to Smith and the Pirates came up with a steal.
“We had a pop-back play. They switched to zone. Just didn’t recognize it very well. We kinda underthrew it a bit to Stix,” Turgeon said describing the play. “We had a play called. It’s unfortunate.”
While the Pirates nearly faltered without Myles Powell to bail them out down the stretch, they held it together to garner the win. A large part of that is likely their brutal early season schedule. The Pirates suffered one possession losses to highly ranked Michigan State and Oregon, while defeating a talented Iowa State team in a close one as well. Playing in a game like this should help Maryland the next time they are faced with a similar situation.
This will go down as a “bad loss”
Playing on the road is always tough but with eight days to prepare, the much more talented Terrapins should have won this game.
The Pirates have quality role players but they were missing 41 percent of their scoring. Willard’s team was just embarrassed at Rutgers this past weekend by a 20 point margin. Thursday, Seton Hall played with more toughness and desire in completing the upset.
Maryland seems like a totally different team than the one that won the Orlando Invitational just a few weeks prior. Had Anthony Cowan not drained a 30 foot prayer against Illinois, the Terps would be 0-3 as of late.
It’s still semi-early in the season and the Terps have nine days off before facing a less imposing Bryant team, but Turgeon’s group will have to get back to the way they played in Orlando if they are going to right the ship this season.
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