TALLAHASSEE — The Maryland men’s basketball horror show commenced in a hurry Sunday night, stuffed with bumbling errors, hands thrown up in frustration and enough swished baskets by the hosts to stuff a season’s worth of highlight footage.
For the second straight game, the Terrapins visited an ACC building searching for positivity amid a season slipping away and instead were buried alive.
After halftime, the only drama that remained in an 85-61 loss at Florida State was whether Maryland would suffer its worst loss under Coach Mark Turgeon. A flurry of late layups helped avoid that bit of history, set during a 27-point rout at Virginia in 2012. Nothing else productive emerged from the trip to Florida, no matter how many times leader Dez Wells (team-high 15 points) tapped the heads of his teammates and told them to stay positive.
“Yeah, it’s no fun,” Turgeon said. “It’s no fun never being in it. . . . I wish we could have competed a little bit better.”
In the coming days, the Terps (10-6, 2-2 ACC) will sift through the rubble and try to move past a rout before hosting Notre Dame on Wednesday. They have lost consecutive games by a total of 44 points. Wearing blank stares after the latest demoralization, players trudged to the team bus with their headphones on, as if music could drown out another game in which they failed to muster a peep.
“Every loss is a big loss,” said guard Nick Faust, who scored 14 points. “Just a letdown today.”
Maryland had six days to plan for Florida State, and the bullet points were simple. As a team, the Seminoles (11-4, 2-1) had blocked roughly one of every six opposing shots entering Sunday, with two lanky 7-footers anchoring the paint. Instead of cowering, Maryland knew it needed to seek contact by attacking. “Putting our shoulders in their chests” as Wells explained it Saturday morning.
The Terps executed this part just fine — they went to the foul line 34 times. The problem was they succeeded at little else, particularly the second part of their game plan. Florida State ranked among the ACC’s worst three-point shooting teams, making less than a third of its attempts. But even bad shooting teams can catch fire against minimal contention, which Maryland willingly provided.
“We were there,” Faust said. “We were closing out. They were still just making shots in our face.”
“Those guys weren’t defending the three-point line, so we hit shots,” said Florida State guard Aaron Thomas, who had 14 points.
At one moment, guard Ian Miller (game-high 20 points) let fly a lopsided shot and screamed “off” as it tumbled toward the hoop. Of course, it swished through the net as a three-point game morphed into a blowout. The Seminoles made three-pointers on five straight possessions.
The second half brought little relevance. The Terps gained no meaningful ground. They were still energetic, dialing up the full-court press and huddling together on every dead ball, but intangibles did nothing to chip away. Once Maryland cut the lead to 21 points, that gave Florida State Coach Leonard Hamilton license to call a timeout. Apparently he felt a run was imminent, even though it never truly was, and the loudest second-half cheers from the bored crowd came when Michael Ojo, a 39 percent free throw shooter, made two straight.
Florida State finished with 16 three-point baskets on 24 attempts and had five players reach double figures. Maryland made 16.7 percent of its three-point attempts (3 of 18), committed 25 fouls and made 15 turnovers.
“It’s hard to stop the bleeding when the wound is so big,” Wells said.
No play better symbolized Maryland’s night than the final possession before intermission. When Miller’s three-pointer caromed off the back iron, Seminoles guard Montay Brandon (13 points) soared in for the dunk and slammed into the head of Peters. As Peters bent over, woozy from the collision, Brandon’s attempt also bounced away, and the shot clock buzzer rang. Everyone stopped and looked around. Three seconds were still left on the game clock.