Defensive letdowns sank Terps versus Boston University

December 22, 2013

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The afternoon ended when Roddy Peters powered down the sideline and tried to hand off the basketball to a Maryland teammate, but gifted it to a Boston University player instead. The turnover, his team’s 17th of the game, was all but a formality at that point during an 83-77 loss to the Terriers, but it nonetheless created a tidy, fitting image of futility.

The giveaways, though, only told a sliver of the story for Maryland, and when Coach Mark Turgeon reviews video  likely with the same bewildered expression he donned for most of Sunday on the bench  he anticipates defensive discipline giving him more headaches than anything.

“We really talked about doing a lot of things better and we didn’t, whether it’s listening better or timeouts or huddles or executing,” he said. “We make the same mistakes. We don’t force guys to ball screens. We try to show, but we’re not forcing so he goes in and shoots a layup. I bet I’ve said that 250 times this year. Ultimately it’s on me. I’ve got to figure out how to get through to them.”

Turgeon considers himself a defensive-minded coach, but against Boston University, Maryland represented the antithesis of his desires. Despite by and large limiting the scoring of dynamic point guard Maurice Watson Jr., the Terps had no answer for shooting guard D.J. Irving, who scored a game-high 25 points on 7-of-11 shooting despite beginning the game with two offensive fouls on the first three possessions.

“With him, a couple times on ball screens our bigs didn’t show, that didn’t really help us out too much,” forward Jake Layman said. “We’ve got to guard the ball better too. That’s the big thing.”

At times, Maryland’s post players sagged too deep into the lane, allowing the opposing big men to simply set their screens and spin along the wing for open three-pointers. Other times, the Terps showed flat-footed, so Watson could dribble right by.

“I think we have to play the full 35 seconds,” forward Evan Smotrycz said. There were a bunch of instances where we’ll play 30 seconds good, then a ball screen late will happen, guys won’t do their job, people will get into the paint and get easy shots. Late-clock breakdowns are definitely a problem for us, because we use all that energy playing for 30 seconds, then the breakdowns.”

Dez Wells blocked a career-high five shots, teeing up several on fast breaks from midcourt, and forward Jonathan Graham swatted a pair, but neither Shaquille Cleare nor Charles Mitchell  in their 22 combined minutes  managed a block. Maryland’s block rate still ranks among the top 100 nationally, but the Terps sorely miss Alex Len protecting the rim.

Besides, Boston University’s guards were too fast and easily beat the full-court press, which earlier this month had helped mount a second-half comeback against George Washington. Nick Faust, billed by Turgeon as the team’s best defender, played well with two steals and zero turnovers, but the problem seemed to lie not with individual effort but the splintered way the Terps played on that end.

“I don’t have all the answers,” Layman said. “I think it stands on the defensive end for us. With our defense, we have to be way more alert and know where shooters are, know which guards to guard off the dribble, know which ones are shooters.”

Said Turgeon: ‘We’re trying to press, trying to zone, do all this stuff to kick-start us. The bottom line is you have to be able to guard better.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt | December 21, 2013