During his news conference Friday in advance of Saturdayâ€™s home game against Clemson, Mark Turgeon feigned amnesia. When asked about his reaction to Tuesdayâ€™s loss at Boston College, namely a postgame interview session filled with disappointment and confusion, Marylandâ€™s second-year coach joked that frustration had clouded the moment, rendering the evening a blurry haze.
The Terrapins would be well served forgetting their 69-58 defeat at Conte Forum, which again sank them below .500 in the ACC and made reaching the NCAA tournament that much tougher a task. They have five conference games remaining, each an opportunity to build toward the ACC tournament, which could be their only shot to impress the selection committee.
And yet the pain of losing to the Eagles, especially after surrendering a seven-point halftime lead and collapsing down the stretch, still lingers.
â€śFor me, no. I canâ€™t stop thinking about that game,â€ť sophomore Dez Wells said, repeating himself for emphasis. â€śI canâ€™t stop thinking about that game. Being a leader of the team, I canâ€™t be content with anything that we do, especially because we have young guys on the team, who donâ€™t know the ins and outs of college basketball yet.
â€śWith that being said, a win over Duke means nothing if you lose to a team thatâ€™s not as great as Duke, which is Boston College. Theyâ€™re a really good team, but theyâ€™re not Duke. You canâ€™t beat a team like Duke then lose to a team that doesnâ€™t have as much talent and doesnâ€™t have the caliber of coach that Duke has in Coach K. Itâ€™s kind of like a contradiction in wins, to lose to a team like that.â€ť
Maryland has been a lesson in contradictions throughout this topsy-turvy season, capable of topping a nationally ranked team one night, then suffering an immense letdown just days later on the road.
It happens on the micro level with players. Alex Len looked every bit like a lottery pick against Duke, then somehow lost his way on the trip to Boston. Seth Allen, Dez Wells, Jake Layman and others all endured steps back against the Eagles, but seem to alternate those moments with eye-popping displays of brilliance and potential.
Turgeon wants to hang his hat on beating Duke, certainly the biggest win of his tenure in College Park. But forgetting Boston College wonâ€™t be as easy for his players.
â€śIâ€™m still wondering what happened,â€ť said Logan Aronhalt, who scored a season-high 26 points, the only Maryland player in double figures against the Eagles. â€śCoach kept telling me Iâ€™d have a great game one of these days, hit a couple threes in a row and really get us going. I thought that was my night, to really give the team a spark. It seemed like they didnâ€™t respond. There was nothing there to give a spark to.â€ť
So begat another week of internal evaluation and reflection, seeking to remedy the general confusion that seems to have infiltrated the ranks. Coaches divided up players and grabbed them in the hallway. â€śHow are you feeling,â€ť they would ask. â€śWhat are you thinking?â€ť Turgeon and his assistants concluded that they simply needed to regain the confidence and energy level present against Duke that, on a team-wide macro level, got left behind on the tarmac before flying north.
â€śAs a coach and competitor, you want to play your best,â€ť Turgeon said. â€śMy frustration the other night was just being a competitor, and being mad at myself that I couldnâ€™t get more out of my team.â€ť
But Aronhalt said another soul-searching session, much like the Terps during their six-day break between losing to Virginia and beating Duke, would be fruitless.
â€śWeâ€™ve just gone about our business, same way we have all season ,â€ť Aronhalt said. â€śTo have another soul-searching session now, I donâ€™t think that will do anything for us. We had one, and obviously the effect was good, but it happened quick. It was short-lived. We had to sustain that. Guys have to look in the mirror and say, hey, no matter what happens, coach doesnâ€™t have to be in you every day on top of what theyâ€™re doing. They have to decide it for themselves.â€ť
At least thereâ€™s one person who has moved past Boston College: Turgeon himself.
â€śI know Iâ€™m excited,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™m as excited today as I was Monday. I woke up Wednesday, said only got a few weeks with these guys, get the most out of them, see how many wins we can get down the stretch.â€ť