Pregame notes: Terps struggling with late-game success


(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

CLEMSON, S.C.– It was as though Maryland forward Charles Mitchell came prepared with a mantra on Saturday afternoon: “I just look at it like this,” he began, when asked about the late-game situations that had been foiling his Terrapins since the season started. “With big rewards come big consequences.”

In six losses to ranked opponents, three have been one-possession games, either officially ending or virtually ending with the basketball in Maryland’s hands. In November, guard Dez Wells missed a three-pointer that would have beaten Connecticut in Brooklyn. Last Monday, point guard Seth Allen smacked a desperation heave at the buzzer off the backboard, which would have almost assuredly invited a court-storming against No. 4 Syracuse.

Sandwiched in between, Mitchell collapsed to the floor at Cameron Indoor Stadium after his right hook bounced up, down, in and out with less than one second left at Duke.

“If you’re going to try to take the big reward, take the last shot, then you have to deal with the consequences after, if you miss it,” Mitchell said. “You have to deal with both sides of taking that shot, the rewards and the consequences. That’s how I look at it. You can’t look at it with one side. You have to look at it both ways.”

Having the nerve to assume control in big moments is one thing, but execution is a different issue. Allen said Saturday that he had the best shot possible against the Orange given the time constraints. He rewatched the film and saw himself release the shot with one-tenth of a second left, having woven between two defenders to launch an off-balance, one-handed shot.

“I can’t say I would make the shot if I took it again,” he said. “I thought I got a good look.”

The bigger issue came on Maryland’s previous possession, when Wells passed the ball in the open court to guard Nick Faust, who surged toward the rim and was unsuccessful in trying to draw a foul. The play happened so fast, Coach Mark Turgeon didn’t think about calling a timeout. Besides, he would rather have someone driving toward the hoop than let Syracuse set up its vaunted zone off a break.

“I thought late in the game, our will to win defensively was better, our rebounding was better, our execution was better,” Turgeon said. “We were just so bad throughout the game that it put us in that situation.”

Moments later, Turgeon paused. He had already made headlines for expressing displeasure over the no-call on Faust and elicited the sarcasm of Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, so Turgeon glossed over the obvious.

“I can’t say again that I thought he …,” Turgeon said, referring to Faust as his words trailed off. “But … I don’t know if we could have got a better shot. I really believe it. So every game’s different.”

>> Maryland received its debut Big Ten home-road schedule on Thursday, which includes significantly higher-profile opponents at Comcast Center than for its ACC swan song. Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin will all visit College Park in 2014-15. Four of those teams are currently projected into the NCAA tournament field and the fifth—Indiana – reached the Sweet 16 in each of the past two seasons.

This year, the Terps got Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Virginia at home while being shut out from hosting Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State for the first time since the conference was founded.

“I think the Big Ten is welcoming us with open arms,” Turgeon said. “They gave us big names coming in here. They obviously did that on purpose. [The ACC] gave Syracuse [which entered the league this season] Duke and North Carolina this year at home. It’s great. It’s great for our fans.”

Again, Turgeon gave pause, and he thought about the lack of familiar rivals on the home docket this season.

“It’s good because last couple years our schedule hasn’t been…I mean, you know…” he said. “I don’t blame them. We left the league, if the ACC wants to do it.”

Would it have been better if the ACC was up front about its denial about the situation, rather than chalking it up to “the regular scheduling process.”

“I don’t think they had to say it,” Turgeon said.

>> The loss to Syracuse moved Maryland to 1-6 this season after breaks of four days or longer. The Terps have played only one game since Feb. 19.

“We’ve had so much time off,” Turgeon said. “This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever been through. I don’t know where we’ll be when the game starts. It feels like we’ve had one game in a month. Hopefully we’ll play well.”

>> Forward Jon Graham has played just two minutes over the past two games, including a DNP-CD versus Syracuse. Turgeon said the Orange zone defense, plus the early injury to Jerami Grant, made Graham’s services no longer necessary.

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