Twice this season, thousands of Maryland students stormed the Comcast Center court in the aftermath of wins over North Carolina State and Duke.
Twice this season, the Maryland basketball team has traveled for road games following those victories, first to North Carolina and then Boston College.
Twice this season, the Terps have followed up their biggest wins with equally disappointing losses.
“As a team, we have to have better effort, more consistent effort,” sophomore Dez Wells said Friday. “We can’t just get up for big games. A lot of teams do that. Anybody can beat anybody in college basketball. With that being said, you can beat a great team, then lose to a team that’s not as great.”
Now the Terps host a beatable Clemson team that’s lost four ACC road games by a combined 17 points, but two others by an average of 25.5. Evoking a famous Kevin Durant motto, Wells evaluated Maryland’s status as it enters its final five regular season games, still hovering below .500 in the ACC.
“I guess right now, with that being said, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work,” he said. “That really goes with what I just said. Our effort has to be a lot better. We’re a good team. But for us to be a great team, we have to bring it every single night. It’s easy to play at home with the crowd behind you, but can you pull out a tough victory on the road. That’s where great teams are measured, away from home. We haven’t been that great team.”
Such inconsistencies have evoked a feeling of baffled frustration throughout the ranks, from both players and coaches alike. That feeling must rectify itself quickly, especially if the Terps still fancy themselves NCAA-tournament caliber.
“I’m surprised and disappointed,” guard Logan Aronhalt said. “Really, when we see that we can go out against Duke and turn the ball over 26 times and still win, you think you’re on top of the world. Hey, that’s not even our best, and we’re beating one of the best teams in the country. Then we come out against Boston College and almost lay over and play dead. It’s frustrating. I know coach, he’s struggled with how to handle the situation.”
>> Seems like every few games, when Alex Len’s performance takes a step back and questions of his NBA readiness begin to pop up, Coach Mark Turgeon has always publicly provided equal parts optimism and motivation for his 7-foot-1 sophomore center.
Len tied his season low with just four points at Boston College, shooting 1 for 5 from the field, though he snagged four offensive rebounds. He fouled out, finished with three turnovers and three blocked shots. So what gives?
“You know, Alex is 19,” Turgeon said. “Doesn’t turn 20 until June. And I know I’m making excuses for him, but he’s 19. When he’s dialed in, he’s really good. Think about where he was last year. Couldn’t keep him in the game, he fouled.
“Just because everyone’s got him high on their draft board, I think everybody’s expectations are so high for this kid. He’s 19 years old. Kid’s having a great year. He’s our most improved player, and he’ll bone of the most improved in the league, if not the most improved player in the end. I don’t know. I don’t study it enough. He’s a little inconsistent. Give the defense credit, and guys around him have to step up and play better. And that would help things.
“I thought we challenged Alex the same way we did before the Duke game. Didn’t work as well. Seemed really lethargic the whole game, heavy-legged. Hopefully we’ll get his energy back for tomorrow at noon.”
>> After playing just five minutes against the Eagles due to matchup issues, Shaq Cleare should receive more minutes vs. Clemson and 6-foot-8 center Devin Booker.
Booker leads the Tigers with 12.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game this season. The Terps went consistently small at Boston College, but it wouldn’t shock if Cleare earned his seven career start, if only to jumpstart a freshman who hasn’t played over 17 minutes in any game since North Carolina State.
“I think he’s frustrated, and I don’t blame him, because he does practice hard,” Turgeon said. “One of my assistants met with him today, another on Wednesday, just trying to keep him focused. Tomorrow, Booker’s a big strong kid. It’s a good matchup for Shaq.”