Maryland had roster-wide struggles on Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C., from foolish turnovers to rebounding lapses to systematic mistakes. Dez Wells scored a team-high 21 points, but twice dribbled out of bounds with no defenders within an arm’s length. Charles Mitchell had nine points and 11 rebounds, but allowed a few late offensive rebounds that helped North Carolina seal a 62-52 win.
And those were the two Terrapins actually praised by Coach Mark Turgeon for their efforts.
Before the game, Turgeon had a good feeling about his team. Maryland rode into the Dean E. Smith Center three days removed from a thrilling, buzzer-beating win over No. 14 North Carolina State. The Terps got Thursday off, practicing and traveling Friday. Yet rather than make a statement against an up-and-down Tar Heels team, they exited with nary a peep, their chances drowned by the Carolina-blue crowd, whose cheers provided a droning soundtrack and constant reminder that nothing went Maryland’s way.
“We weren’t very good. It’s pretty obvious,” Turgeon said. “We threw the ball to them a lot more than sometimes we threw it to us. But give the crowd credit, give North Carolina credit. It’s disappointing. Fifteen [turnovers] in one half is too many. Great environment, tough, we just kept fumbling the ball, fumbled them, fumbled passes, just one of those days.”
“One of those days” has become a refrain for the Terps, who have lost three of four, only squeaking out that last-second victory over the Wolfpack since rolling over Virginia Tech in the ACC opener. They’re still searching for answers, wondering why they shot worse than 40 percent from the field for the third straight game, or how North Carolina’s Reggie Bullock outscored them, 21-20, at halftime.
Bullock, to his credit, emerged on fire, setting career highs for field goal attempts and made field goals by intermission, ultimately finishing with a career-high 24 points. James Michael McAdoo was his usual beast self inside, racking up his fifth double-double this year – and first since Dec. 1 – with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Turgeon credited Bullock and the Tar Heels, calling them a “hungry team…that needed a win,” but what does that make the Terps? Alex Len finished with 10 points and five rebounds, but got double-teamed and only attempted seven field goals, including two baseline jumpers. Pe’Shon Howard’s struggles continued, as he committed seven turnovers against zero assists in just 14 minutes, while Shaquille Cleare was hampered by early foul trouble, Logan Aronhalt has made just two three-pointers in the past four games and Seth Allen shot 2 for 12 from the field.
“We missed a lot of open shots again, shots that could have stemmed the tide a little bit, just didn’t make them,” Turgeon said. “But give them credit They were good. They took us out of stuff we were trying to execute in first the half.”
Turgeon also suggested the Terps may have been rattled by the atmosphere, a problem compounded by North Carolina’s defensive aggression and perimeter speed. But the players shook off that notion. The issue, they said, was simply another poor start.
“I don’t think it was that,” Mitchell said. “I think it was not being focused when we came out, had a few turnovers in the first two minutes that we could have controlled, we weren’t matching their tempo from the tip. We played better in the second half, coming out, know what we need to focus on. But we need to be a little better first-half team, starting teams.”
Said Wells: “Age is just an excuse. We have CEOs in their 20s. Age is just an excuse. It’s about how you approach the game every time you step on the court. We didn’t come out ready and we paid for it.”