Terps see selfishness, immaturity as reasons behind their latest slump

After a tough loss to N.C. State and three mediocre seasons, the Post Sports Live crew debates whether Maryland basketball Coach Mark Turgeon should be under more pressure for not making the NCAA tournament. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

The Maryland men’s basketball team has lost three of four entering Saturday’s rematch with No. 20 Pittsburgh, and everyone who spoke Friday seemed to know the reason for the latest setback, a 65-56 loss at North Carolina State on Monday night: When their nine-point halftime lead was threatened and the crowd at PNC Arena frothed with excitement, the Terrapins buckled beneath the pressure.

During the sobering film session that followed, Coach Mark Turgeon told his players they had been selfish against the Wolfpack. Immature and impatient, too. Everyone wanted to score, to shoulder the burden personally, which meant everyone lacked the self-awareness to stop and slow down.

“It takes a lot of maturity and just IQ to know, ‘Okay, it’s going to be a good shot for us,’ ” Maryland guard Dez Wells said. “And it takes a lot of leadership for guys to step up and say, ‘That’s a bad shot.’ ”

Despite the self-inflicted wounds and mounting losses, which have all but erased Maryland’s preseason NCAA tournament hopes and left many fans questioning the direction of the program, Turgeon remains confident the Terrapins’ problems can be fixed because his players tell him they recognize exactly what they’re doing wrong.

On the other hand, the mistakes have left Turgeon stomping around the sideline, putting more strain on his vocal cords and adding more stress to an already trying season. The third-year coach said he wished he had more timeouts to correct the mistakes during games, and he was only half-joking.

“I’ve just got to get our guys to do what I’m asking them to do,” Turgeon said. “When things go wrong is really when you’ve got to stick together and get the best shot. We didn’t do that the other night. We broke plays off and shot really bad shots. I think my point has been well taken. But when the lights come on and I can’t stop it all the time, they’ve got to do it the right way.”

The result Monday was a particularly gory box score. Wells made 2 of 11 field goal attempts, while Nick Faust was 1 for 7 and Seth Allen was 3 for 12. No Maryland player scored more than 10 points even though the Terrapins hoisted up 70 shots, one fewer than their season high. It was as if everyone tried to rush through the doorway at once and instead got stuck.

“To me, I think if you really want to win, you’re not going to take those shots and you’re not going to be selfish,” said forward Jake Layman, who went 2 for 8 against N.C. State.

Perhaps the message has been absorbed this time, but the Terps often have found themselves at similar junctures this season, hopeful the corner had been turned only to plummet down another trap door. Something similar happened before their first game against Pittsburgh on Jan. 6, when they were crushed by 20 points. Since then, the Panthers have lost just once — a five-point loss at No. 2 Syracuse — and ascended into the national rankings.

Maryland, meanwhile, lost by 24 points at Florida State and then blew a double-digit lead against a N.C. State team that was playing without T.J. Warren, the ACC’s leading scorer. So to get their heads straight, the Terrapins started thinking about bigger issues, such as the health of cancer-stricken former manager Zach Lederer, and several days ago went to watch the film “Lone Survivor,” about a Navy SEAL mission in Afghanistan. Right now, with the season spiraling away, they will try anything.

“The mind is a strong thing,” Wells said. “You play mind games with yourself, you will not be successful. . . . We feel like this is the hardest thing right now because as a team we haven’t gone through much. This is a struggle right now. But at the end of struggle is success. We just have to keep fighting and keep playing.”

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