Never an enthusiast for speaking with reporters, Coach Mark Turgeon spent around 30 minutes in the Maryland locker room on Tuesday night before walking into the makeshift news conference. He sat down, pushed two Gatorade bottles to the side and sighed.
“Really disappointed in our effort, in our ability to play with a little heart and more desire in a big game,” Turgeon said in an opening statement. “Sitting over there, it was hard to watch.”
Playing in a 69-58 loss at Boston College was certainly no picnic, either. Both Nick Faust and Logan Aronhalt, the two Terrapins who spoke to reporters after the game, seemed equally dumbfounded by Maryland’s sluggish effort, which, barring some unforeseen miracle down the stretch or at the ACC tournament, might have torched their NCAA tournament chances.
So where do the Terps go from here? Clemson comes to Comcast Center on Saturday. After that comes consecutive road trips to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, neither of whom present exactly formidable challenges, though Maryland seems to make issues for itself on the road. After that, North Carolina comes to town for the Terps’ home finale, and the season ends four days later at John Paul Jones Arena against Virginia.
The next few days leading up to the Clemson game should be grueling enough. The Terps have taken enough late flights by now to handle the travel stress. But how will they handle the stress brought on by their latest disappointment, this time a loss to a sub-.500 Boston College team that got just two points from its leading scorer?
“We definitely didn’t want to lose this game,” said Faust, one of eight Maryland players to score five points or less. “We feel as though, coming off a big win, we had to get this one. I think this is a minor setback for us, but we have to get back to work and grind through it, just prepare for the next one.
“There’s no explanation. We just have to grow up if we want to change. Guys have to be more consistent and be more committed to the team.”
There’s that word again: commitment. Did individualistic tendencies take over at Conte Forum, or were the Terps simply outhustled for loose balls all night against an undersize, scrappy Eagles bunch?
“I’m not sure, but I did feel as though we were getting to balls late today,” Faust said. “Balls weren’t bouncing our way. I feel as though Boston College was a quick step ahead of us.”
The Terps missed early opportunities and took poor shots. They alternated breathtaking sequences – Aronhalt’s three three-pointers in 50 seconds or Dez Wells’s first-half-ending rejection come to mind – with confounding errors or blown defensive assignments. They got outrebounded, 37-32.
“Why we lost this game wasn’t in the stats,” said Aronhalt, who finished with a season-high 26 points. “It was loose balls, I guess rebounding, that counts as a lot of loose balls there too. We were just a step slow everywhere.”
Even with an extremely thin NCAA tournament at-large field this season, Maryland will likely need to run the table and then do some damage in the ACC tournament to earn a March Madness bid. Nothing is set in stone, but losing to Boston College was the latest and most detrimental setback, by far the worst loss on its resume. Regardless, Turgeon had the perfect antidote for Maryland’s next step, even if the bigger picture remains blurry.
”You know what makes me happy is really good, hard practices,” he said. “That’s where we go from here.”
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