Road trips provide an extended bonding opportunity for Maryland, from the private flights to hotel stays. It’s essentially one big chemistry experiment for a team already closer than most.
Except venturing away from College Park has proved more dismal than exciting since January rolled around. The Terrapins are winless in three ACC road games this month against Miami, North Carolina and Duke, with another test coming Wednesday at Florida State.
Each road loss provided a different lesson. In a 54-47 decision against the Hurricanes, the Terps shot 31.6 percent, scored 14 first-half points and still competed up until the three-minute mark against arguably the nation’s hottest team.
Riding the emotion of a one-point, buzzer-beating win over North Carolina State, Maryland then laid a first-half egg in Chapel Hill, N.C., falling into a massive hole before the Tar Heels eased back and the Terps cut the final deficit to 62-52.
Then Maryland traded blows with Duke for 25 minutes on Saturday but ran into a near-perfect meat grinder at Cameron Indoor Stadium, losing by 20 to a motivated Blue Devils bunch. Both Coach Mark Turgeon and sophomore swingman Dez Wells posited that no team could have beaten Duke that day.
Tack on the season-opening loss to Kentucky, the 20-point win at Northwestern and a seven-point squeaker over George Mason at Verizon Center, and Turgeon is seeing far more improvement away from home than one might expect.
“We just haven’t been god-awful on the road,” Turgeon said Tuesday. “We’re much better than we were last year on the road. I expect us to be a really good road team before the season’s over. I think you could say we were a good road team against Miami. First half against Duke and second half against North Carolina. Hopefully we can be a really good road team the rest of the way. It won’t be easy. I think your’e seeing it, a little bit of growth offensively. Our shot selection hast to be better. Our poise has to be better. We keep talking about it. Eventually, it’s going to click in.”
The struggles aren’t localized to Maryland. Plenty of ACC giants have fallen away from home. Both Florida State and Duke were abused by Miami in Coral Gables, while North Carolina State (at Maryland and Wake Forest) and North Carolina (at Virginia) have also suffered road letdowns against traditionally weaker foes.
“I think you can say parity, whatever you want. It’s a better league,” Turgeon said. “You just can’t go on the road and show up and beat a team because they’re not any good. There’s better teams in our league this year. Boston College is 1-5, they had Miami beat, had the ball and should have won the game. They had North Carolina State right there, could have beat them, too. There’s just better teams. I keep saying it, the league is better. Therefore, it’s harder to win on the road. Sometimes you can just show up, because teams aren’t any good, don’t have any confidence. I don’t think that will be the case this year.”
The Seminoles return home to Tallahassee after a 71-47 bludgeoning by the Hurricanes on Sunday, their third loss in the past four games. Two of those, at Virginia and Miami, came away from the Donald L. Tucker Center.
“It’s a fine line out there,” Turgeon said. “They’re playing hard, competing. At times they struggle to score like we do, at times. But they have good players. They’re used to winning. What’s gone wrong? You’ll have to ask [Coach] Leonard [Hamilton]. But they’re competing. It’s hard out there, guys. It’s hard to win.”