The Maryland men’s basketball team spent little time preparing for Abilene Christian. Recuperating from a season-opening loss to Connecticut, the Terrapins focused more on themselves than their opponent for Wednesday night’s home opener. “Maybe our guys didn’t think Abilene Christian was any good by doing that,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “Obviously I didn’t get them prepared to play.”
Turgeon accepted full responsibility for what transpired at Comcast Center before a crowd of 9,117, as the Wildcats rolled up a 12-point lead in the first half before the Terrapins stormed back to win. Once again, Maryland emerged sluggish, and once again it needed a strong post-intermission performance to climb back into the game.
But unlike Friday night’s game against the ranked Huskies, the Terps were supposed to pound Abilene Christian, a young team transitioning from Division II, and run away with a feel-good victory, their first of the season. Instead, thanks largely to their own lethargy, they found themselves frustrated at the dogfight that ensued.
“It was our energy,” sophomore Jake Layman said. “It was just terrible. We knew in the second half we needed energy. That’s all we needed.”
Said forward Charles Mitchell: “I feel like we came out flat in the first half. We didn’t really respect the name of the team. I thought we didn’t respect the team, so we came out flat. We didn’t have a lot of energy. There wasn’t a big crowd today, so we didn’t bring our energy. But the second half, again we came back.”
Maryland finished the evening on a 29-0 run, holding Abilene Christian scoreless over its final 23 possessions. The once-hot Wildcats crumpled down the stretch, but despite the drought still finished with a 47.6 percent three-point rate. Layman led all scorers with 19 points, including 14 straight during the second half. Mitchell added 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Maryland felt self-inflicted wounds caused Abilene Christian to hang around in a game that should have been decided far before the final buzzer. Turgeon arrived at Comcast Center eager for the game, hopeful after a strong film session. He thought the Terps would coast early.
“It was really disappointing,” Turgeon said. “Offensively, just our decision-making and our shots, they had us pushed from the basket, telling guys to throw it inside and we wouldn’t do it. So … it’s disappointing. Hopefully I’ll do a better job between now and Sunday, have us ready to go at 6 o clock on Sunday.”
Sunday brings Oregon State (and possibly President Obama, whose brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, is the Beavers’ coach) — and Turgeon’s team will again try to avoid sleepwalking through the first half. Abilene Christian’s hot shooting played a role in the upset bid, but the Terps rotated poorly around the perimeter, closed out on shooters slowly and had committed 12 turnovers by the break.
“I wouldn’t call it a trend yet,” Turgeon said. “It’s two games. I think the first game, I think the opponent had a lot to do with it. They played really well. Abilene Christian really played well. They made a lot of shots tonight. Give them a little bit of credit in the first half. We’ll get it corrected. I’ve got a bunch of competitive guys. I really like my guys. I really like my team. I really do. I just got to get them playing a little bit better.”