The Maryland men’s basketball team knew a complete effort was necessary to beat Pittsburgh in the building in which it almost never gets beaten, but instead nearly every cog in the machine malfunctioned. Monday night’s 20-point battering can be sliced into two distinct sections: the 18 minutes when the Terrapins hung tough, trading blows with a Panthers team that’s undefeated at Petersen Events Center this season, and the 22 minutes when they collapsed and the rout was on.
As the Terps proceed, eyes trained ahead on Sunday’s game at Florida State, they will likely attack the below-listed problems with an intensity unseen during the second half on Monday night, then promptly wipe the slate clean, because at this stage – teetering on the edge of relevancy, an NCAA tournament bid a faraway thought – what good is dwelling on the past?
“We learned about it,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “Can’t sit there and just play like that. There’s a lot of basketball left in this season. We’ve got 15 league games, we’ve got our players back [from injury]. We’ll learn from tonight. We won’t play many teams better than this. This is a heck of a basketball team.”
>> Forward Evan Smotrycz canned all three of his three-point attempts before halftime, seemingly brushing aside his prolonged shooting slump. His stroke looked smooth, his confidence high as he pump-faked and stepped back along the perimeter, nearly un-guardable at 6 feet 10.
Then something changed.
“Obviously yeah,” he said. “I had a lot of open ones, just didn’t make them in the second half. I thought they were all good.”
During the second half, when points were at a premium and the Terps finished with their second-lowest scoring total of the season, Smotrycz missed 7 of 8 three-point attempts, including three from his bread-and-butter post in the left alley and three more from the left corner, the highest-percentage jump shot in basketball.
His raw numbers (14 points, four rebounds) weren’t bad, but the 4-for-13 shooting (4 for 11 on three-pointers) certainly makes things look worse, but graphed in four-game stretches this season, Smotrycz’s shooting accuracy – always hot-cold in spurts this season – is in constant flux.
“I do think that we settled for too many jump shots,” Turgeon said. “I won’t mention any names, but we settled for those which was disappointing, then we didn’t rebound enough.”
>> Against Georgia Tech on Saturday, Maryland committed six turnovers, the fewest of any Turgeon team since he arrived in 2011. But such care with the ball lasted less than 48 hours. The Terps surpassed that total in the first half against Pittsburgh, and the Panthers ultimately turned 13 turnovers into 18 points.
Even more troubling, the team handed out eight assists and no player had more than two. As the night eventually evolved into a chuck-them-up affair, Maryland struggling to come back and hoisting quick shots in the futile effort, passes came even less frequently. Still, the sub-1.0 assist-to-turnover ratio has been a thorny problem for the Terps this season, even after point guard Seth Allen returned from injury.
>> No Maryland player has succeeded more in his career on the road than Dez Wells, whose best games have come away from College Park, when the Terps need him most. But even the team’s leading scorer struggled, finding himself surrounded on every lane penetration.
“They knew who Dez was,” said Allen, probably the only bright spot with a season-high 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting. “Every time he drove he had three guys around him.”
Here are Wells’s road averages before Pittsburgh compared with his stats from Monday night, when his five points were his lowest in a true road game since transferring from Xavier.
DEZ WELLS TRUE ROAD GAMES AT MARYLAND
Before Pitt (12 games)
56.7 (80 for 125)
33.3 (2 for 6)
67.9 (36 for 53)
50.0 (1 for 2)
>> Pittsburgh’s shooting splits were fairly even – 50 percent from the field in the first half, 55.2 percent in the second half, 60 percent in both halves on three-pointers – but there was a distinct difference in the defensive energy Maryland offered bridging intermission.
“I thought we tried to guard in the first half,” Turgeon said. “I don’t think defensively we were dialed in defensively in the second half. I think we let the score and missed jump shots affect our defense in the second half.”
The statistic has been brought up plenty, but it bears repeating: When opponents shoot better than 40 percent, Maryland is 1-6 this season.
SHOOTING PERCENTAGES ALLOWED
>> There are no graphs to measure intangibles like effort or toughness, but Pittsburgh has built a reputation on both of these attributes and Maryland has not. Three Panthers players declined to take the bait offered during their postgame interviews, when asked whether they felt the Terps had wilted under the pressure. Smotrycz thought otherwise.
“I think we are [tough], too,” he said. “I think we just got to be tougher.”