The extensive list of Maryland’s issues this season primarily covers the offense. Poor shot selection. Careless turnovers. Weakness inside. Inconsistencies everywhere. On and on it extends. But rarely do the Terps suffer extensive letdowns on defense. They’ve built themselves on strong rebounding and team defense, almost never double-teaming but still rotating and helping well.
All of that fell by the wayside in a 78-68 loss to Georgia Tech on Wednesday evening.
“There’s times when guys were just on different pages,” freshman Seth Allen said. “This team, defensively, we had a lot of stuff that we wanted to do. You really had to think the whole game. Throughout the whole game, we didn’t think as well as we could have. We wanted to double the post and double ball screens, and we need to be focused. There’s times when we weren’t on the same pages. There’s times when we were and we played great. We just have to keep it together more, for 40 minutes.”
Twice in a 40-second span, Georgia Tech found Brandon Reed for wide-open corner three-pointers after crisp ball movement broke down Maryland’s defense and exposed weaknesses in its rotation. Reed played just 21 minutes, but finished with 17 points, two short of his career high and the first time the guard has reached double digits since December.
Turgeon said the team’s defensive “intelligence” disappointed him most, and it’s hard to argue. Georgia Tech was just 6 for 19 from three-point range but shot 62.5 percent (20 for 32) from inside the arc. Of those shots, only a deep second-half jumper and a close-range baseline baby hook by Robert Carter Jr. came outside the paint.
“We didn’t play well today,” said Alex Len, who fouled out for the third time in five games. “Defense hurt us today. We didn’t do what we were supposed to do. They out-rebounded us and Carter, he played great today. We couldn’t stop him. He was doing the same move and we didn’t guard him.”
Not even Maryland’s full-court press, which sparked the Terps last weekend against Clemson and which Turgeon turned to after the under-16 media timeout, helped. Georgia Tech twice approached a 10-second violation, but exploited the press’s holes and broke it. More often, the Yellow Jackets sliced through the defense with ease, creating man-up attacks on the basket.
“I thought we did a good job against their press,” Georgia Tech Coach Brian Gregory said. “Our philosophy against full-court pressure is to attack it and to try to score. We have a pretty good luxury in that our big guys can handle the ball pretty well and they’re good passers. I thought that really helped us with that.”
Another road letdown was frustrating enough for the Terps, but the manner in which they suffered it was even worse.
“We have to learn,” Shaq Cleare said. “We can’t be trading baskets all the time. I think we have to take it more as a personal thing. Listen to coaches more. Do the little things on defense, like rotate to help, all the defensive drills we do for hours in practice.”