The numbers aren’t pretty. Four Maryland guards are shooting under 30 percent from three-point range this season. Trips to the free throw line have dipped during conference play. Even Logan Aronhalt hasn’t made a three-pointer in the past two games, and when your sharpshooting, shining example of consistency is experiencing a slump, the issue is officially widespread.
Yes, the air around Comcast Center has grown cold this month.
“Starting off the season, everyone was really hot. I’d say everyone kind of slowed down right now, hit a real fast slump,” Nick Faust said. “We’re going to push through, guys will start hitting shots. You just can’t control it, but as long as you stay in the gym, keep focusing, locking in, I think we can push through.”
Entering Tuesday’s home date with Boston College, the Terrapins have scored less than 53 points in three straight games and haven’t made more than 40 percent of their shots since blowing out Virginia Tech in their ACC opener.
Maryland’s exciting 13-game winning streak now seems like a distant memory, lost among halftime scores in the teens that are symptomatic of poor execution and a stubbornly persistent cold streak across the roster.
“I think we’re getting some really good looks,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “I think North Carolina, we had some really wide-open shots. Maybe at Miami we didn’t quite get as good a look there. Florida State, maybe we didn’t, even though in the first half Logan missed three wide-open threes. We’d all take that, right? I think it’s a combination, not getting as many, but we’ve had some wide-open ones.
“It all snowballed at once, not getting to the foul line, not making jump shots, not finishing around the basket, it all hit us at once. So we just keep guarding and our defense wasn’t good in the first half the other day, and that was the game.”
Any number of wintry references would suffice. The Terps made just 1 of 12 three-pointers in Chapel Hill, N.C., while Seth Allen and Nick Faust were a combined 3 for 17 from the field. Yet Maryland still ranks third in the ACC in field goal percentage (47 percent), providing much-needed confidence that this pervasive slump will end soon.
It must. After hosting Boston College, the journey gets far tougher with consecutive road games at Duke and Florida State. Getting to the free throw line, a continued point of emphasis among Turgeon and the team, would certainly help.
“The past couple games, we haven’t been attacking the basket,” Charles Mitchell said. “We’ve been taking ill-advised shots. I feel that if we attack the basket more, it’ll create more opportunities to get to the line. That comes with attacking the rim and not taking bad shots. Decision-making and execution. We have to attack the basket. If our shots aren’t falling, we really have to attack the basket and get to the foul line, to compensate for the points we’re not scoring from three-pointers or jump shots.”
With teams virtually daring Maryland to win from the outside, sagging into the lane and double-teaming Alex Len, free throw opportunities have been difficult to earn. But the Terps, Turgeon said, haven’t been as aggressive as necessary under such dire circumstances, being uncharacteristically inactive on the offensive glass, where second-chance opportunities can beget trips to the stripe.
“We’re not getting there,” Turgeon said. “Dez can get there, Nick and Alex have to figure out a way to get there. We have to shoot more free throws. If we’re not going to make jump shots, we have to shoot more free throws, get more second-chance points, score on the break, which we haven’t been able to do. It’s just a number of things. It’s all gone bad at once. It’s all gone bad at once. It’s that simple. Some of it was execution in the Miami game, our execution wasn’t very good. Hopefully we’ll all snap out of it at once.”
That’s the hope, but can such a young team resist the tendency to dwell on past mistakes?
“Letting missed shots go, not letting that hang over your head and influence your next play,” Aronhalt said. “I think we need to feed off our defense. It’s so good at times, and a lot of times we miss a shot or take a bad shot, and we let that influence our game.
“That’s something we have to forget about. There’s no other way to do it but keep plugging along. Hopefully we’re growing, getting better at that over the next couple games.”