Not since the three-point season-opening loss to Kentucky has this season’s Maryland basketball team left a game with such a sense of disappointment. This time, instead of losing to the nation’s third-ranked team, it was after a 33-point win over Monmouth on Wednesday night, which gave these Terrapins another important learning experience — and possibly a wake-up call.
But what to take away, exactly?
The turnovers are an obvious launching pad. The Terps committed a season-high 23 versus the pesky Hawks, degenerating from a 11-2 run to open the game into a festival of miscues that resulted in their worst opening half this season.
“We just need to focus on making the easy play,” said Dez Wells, who received praise from Turgeon as really the one Maryland player who showed up. “That’s something that will come. It’s just a matter of when we’re ready to take that next step, when we force ourselves into that next step, that’s the biggest thing for us right now. We’re not playing our full potential, I don’t feel. We have to stop letting each other down and cut the turnovers down, or we won’t maximize our full potential.
“We know exactly how good we are and what our strengths are. It’s just a matter of making the easy play, like I said. We just have to make the easy play. Sometimes we get caught up in doing too much. That’s selfish. I’m guilty of that myself. I’m selfish at times with trying to make the home-run play instead of the easy pass. That’s something I have to learn, something I want to get better at every day. It comes with time.”
Obviously, the talent and potential exist. Otherwise, Turgeon wouldn’t have been so disappointed, speaking with his usual candor and even tempering his opinion a couple times. But the problems, at least in the backcourt, often stem from prioritizing flash over functionality, tossing an ill-advised alley-oop or attempting an up-and-under pass in transition when drawing contact and getting to the free-throw line would suffice.
The genesis of these turnovers still goes undiagnosed, especially as Turgeon raves about practice intensity. The Terps will do ball-security drills to hone strength, but the problems may be mainly inexperience manifesting in itself in mental errors.
“It was on us tonight,” said Nick Faust, who had a season-high 16 points and matched a career high with three three-pointers. “We knew we could have played a lot better. We are now looking to move forward. We are going to learn from our mistakes and get better for next game.”
Talent has allowed these Maryland to distance itself throughout a weak non-conference schedule, blowing out every team by double figures except Lafayette and George Mason. But there’s a lingering sense that the Terps have been playing down to opponents, allowing a furious perimeter defense such as Monmouth’s to dictate the pace.
“Nothing is given,” Wells said. “You have to come out and be ready to play at any given moment. You have to respect your opponents. In this game, that’s something you have to do. You can’t play down to the level of talent that you’re playing against. Great teams, they step on your throat when they have the chance, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Turgeon seemed genuinely excited about the upcoming nine-day break between games. The Terps will first take care of their exams before two-a-days return entering a Dec. 21 matchup with Stony Brook.
“We’re going to work a lot on execution,” Alex Len said. “We played really good defense, I think we played tough, but we have to execute better. We need to make smarter decisions. We have to play smarter, be stronger with the ball, get rid of those stupid turnovers. I think maybe because we’re young, a really young team. That’s my personal opinion.”