When it was all over, the Maryland basketball team’s 13-game winning streak doomed by a cavalcade of frustrating errors Wednesday night against Florida State, Coach Mark Turgeon stepped to the lectern and heaved a massive sigh into the microphone.
“Umm,” Turgeon began, his voice trailing off. “You know, I give Florida State a lot of credit … I am disappointed. We didn’t play well, but give them a lot of credit why we didn’t play well.”
The Terrapins lost 65-62, their first loss since the season opener against Kentucky. Down 64-62 with eight second left, Seth Allen’s potential game-winner got swatted away by Michael Snaer. Alex Len’s flat ball screen should have come higher, near midcourt rather than by the three-point line, but Allen missed his 7-foot-1 center rolling to the hoop nonetheless.
Instead he pulled up. And the Seminoles pulled away.
“I’m going to learn from it,” Allen said. “I wanted to attack, but I felt like I didn’t have enough time even though I probably did. I’m going to learn from this. I’m young, freshman, we’ve got a lot more games to play. In the future, if I get an opportunity like that, I plan to drive, make a layup.”
At the Barclays Center vs. the Wildcats, Maryland also found itself with a chance. But Pe’Shon Howard air-balled a buzzer-beating three-pointer, missing Jake Layman on the wing. This time, it was the freshman Allen, rising for a jumper rather than attacking the rim.
On the bench, the word spread. “Take a two,” the Terps told each other. “We’ll take a two.” Maryland had already engineered a miraculous comeback, turning an eight-point deficit with 1:07 left into a one-point game. Len made it 59-53 with a dunk. Allen drilled a three-pointer then stuck an and-one layup. After Devon Bookert hit both free throws, Faust delivered a deep circus shot. Snaer then missed one of two free-throw attempts, setting up the night’s final play.
“I tried to go left, the big showed, so I cut back right, and when I pulled up, Snaer was there and made a great play on the shot,” Allen said.
Had Maryland not coughed up a nine-point halftime lead, however, it wouldn’t have come to that. The Terps committed 18 turnovers, most on over-dribbles or errant passes, as the Seminoles slowly chopped away, executing multiple second-half runs buoyed by forward Okaro White.
White dominated Maryland in the second half, scoring 15 straight points for Florida State, snatching six offensive rebounds and swatting six shots. The Terrapins had no answer, as their lead evaporated and disappointment reigned.
“When we were up 10 or 11, it should have been 15 or 16,” Turgeon said “We were missing wide-open shots, throwing the ball out of bounds. They weren’t making shots. I just felt like there were a lot of opportunities for us in the first half.
“But I knew the first possession of the second half that it would be a grinder. We ran a play, didn’t get anything, turned it over and just throw it out of bounds. We had a lot of guys not make good decisions tonight. Give them credit, that’s the first time we saw that kind of defense for 40 minutes, and we didn’t handle it well.”
Gone are the blowout wins over the likes of Maryland-Eastern Shore, replaced by the Florida States, teams that will relentlessly bully the Terrapins, guarding the rim with stiff forearms and broad shoulders, aggressively denying post-entry passes by fronting Maryland’s big men.
The Terps wanted physicality. They received a wake-up call, exposed for their youthful inconsistencies, condemned by panic.
“It was turnovers and not boxing out, rebounds,” Nick Faust said. “Okaro White killed us he second half. We definitely did, we could have put them away early. We let up in the first half a lot. A lot of turnovers. We definitely turned the ball over a lot and missed a lot of open opportunities.
“A lot of teams go through this phase. It’s just another loss you have to get through. We have another big game coming up. We just have to learn from this.”