Once again, Mark Turgeon faced questions following another mystifying Maryland loss. Once again, the Terrapins men’s basketball coach was looking for answers.
“I’ve been trying,” he said in the wake of an 83-77 defeat to Boston University on Saturday at Comcast Center. “I’ve been trying to fix it. . . . I don’t know. That’s the perplexing thing.”
The mystification has become a familiar refrain since Turgeon arrived in College Park more than two years ago, no more so than when the Terrapins suffered their second nonconference loss at home this season. Reviewing the box score was a nightmarish proposition for Turgeon. Where to begin?
Maryland missed 11 free throws, committed 17 turnovers and made 1 of 9 three-pointers after intermission. Four Terriers finished in double figures, including D.J. Irving with a game-high 25 points, and they faced minimal resistance when they attacked the Terps’ defense. Dez Wells and Jake Layman exhausted themselves with 36 minutes apiece because Turgeon felt he couldn’t trust anyone to spell them off the bench.
“I can keep going,” Turgeon said. “I don’t want to keep you guys here all day.”
Injured guard Seth Allen (broken foot) will soon be available; his participation in the pregame shoot-around reminded the Terps what they have been missing. But losing here to teams like Boston University (7-5) and Oregon State, even without Allen, was never part of Turgeon’s plan when he scripted this nonconference schedule. Maryland harbored NCAA tournament expectations, and beating strong mid-majors would light the way.
Instead, the Terps (7-5) were called for a season-high 27 fouls, gifting their opponents easy points at the free throw line. Post players Charles Mitchell, Shaq Cleare and Jonathan Graham combined for 12 points — and only seven after halftime. Evan Smotrycz shook a month-long slump with 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Wells scored 18 points, but the second-half spark he provided wasn’t enough.
The Terrapins trailed by 10 at intermission before mounting a rally that saw them take a 58-57 lead midway through the second half after Smotrycz spun baseline and soared for a layup. Turgeon tried a small lineup to counter the Boston University zone, but forward Dom Morris (16 points) bulldozed his way inside for two easy baskets that pushed the lead back to seven.
“Whenever we got the lead, they would come back, give us that dagger shot,” said Layman, who scored 14 points. “Sometimes we were hanging our heads, I guess, a little bit. It’s something we can’t do. We have to persevere through those situations.”
The frustration bubbled over. Layman bricked a free throw and, inside a graveyard-silent arena, barked out a loud obscenity. When Maryland jogged into the locker room at halftime, assistant Scott Spinelli, a Boston University graduate facing his alma mater for the first time, peeked at the scoreboard and said, “Wow.”
“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,” Turgeon 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.”
This was precisely the letdown Turgeon hoped to avoid Friday afternoon, when he half-jokingly banned his players from uttering the word “Christmas.” As the reasoning went, the Terps could begin dreaming of the holidays only after the final buzzer sounded against Boston University.
Now they will return to their families, seeking solutions over an eight-day break between games. Each player, Graham said, was tasked with thinking about individual improvements and not the season at large. Turgeon thought the Terps needed to have more fun, that they were feeling too much pressure. Maybe that, he said, would help.
“I’m trying to figure it out,” he said. ‘Hopefully I can over the break.”