Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon could have marched into the visiting locker room at the Tucker Center on Sunday, guns blazing and voice hoarse, and ripped into his team for another 20-point loss before telling everyone to move past it. But he wanted the Terrapins to stew after Sunday night’s blowout loss at Florida State, to let the pain marinate on the bus ride to the Tallahassee airport, on the chartered plane flight back to Baltimore, beneath the covers as they slept in College Park.
“Couldn’t leave it in the locker room,” Turgeon said Tuesday. “That’s got to hurt overnight. It’s got to hurt for a while.”
Twelve hours seemed to suffice, because when Maryland returned to Comcast Center the following afternoon to dissect film, Turgeon saw somber faces and minds still thinking about the latest disaster. After losing two straight games by 44 combined points entering Wednesday’s home date with Notre Dame, the Terrapins promptly began trying to – again – figure out what has gone wrong and how to fix it before the season becomes a lost cause.
“Definitely not sinking,” forward Evan Smotrycz said. “Still really early. We’re 2-2 [in ACC play]. A lot of teams are 2-2 in the league. We just need to execute our offense and let it work for us, not take quick shots and make plays for other guys.”
Smotrycz, like his teammates, flipped on his headphones and trudged through the hallways at Florida State, silent as he left the site of another disappointment. He wanted to start playing immediately, and if the airport tarmac had a hoop he might have begun shooting. But Turgeon wanted the thoughts to sink in.
“I hate it, man,” Smotrycz said. “Especially when you lose like that, you just want to correct every mistake you made and come out and play better. I’m sure guys will be ready to go tomorrow. I know I will.”
The Fighting Irish enter Wednesday’s game shorthanded without leading scorer Jerian Grant, who was dismissed from school amid an academic issue. Point guard Eric Atkins, a Rockville native and DeMatha graduate, leads the new-look roster with 14 points per game, but like Maryland, Notre Dame has lost two straight, to North Carolina State and at Georgia Tech. However, the Fighting Irish haven’t suffered nearly the same demoralizing deficits that have plagued the Terrapins.
“It really hurts getting embarrassed,” guard Nick Faust said. “It almost feels as though it’s embarrassing when you’re losing by big deficits. You just want to get back at it and do whatever you can to beat the team and punish the other team we’re playing against. That’s what we’re looking for tomorrow.”
Tuesday’s practice brought a new energy, Turgeon said, though the disconnect between practice and game performance has been a frustrating trope for the Terps this season. Still, he was optimistic that, after feeling the hurt, the players were ready to move forward.
“I saw a lot of improvement,” Turgeon said. “I saw a lot of focus. I saw a mature team today, so hopefully I’ll see a mature team tomorrow night at 7.
“The good thing is we didn’t have to sit on this very long. We got home late in the morning, had a meeting yesterday and we got after it today. Sometimes it just takes a home game and it takes Notre Dame. Hopefully guys will play well and play with confidence. That doesn’t mean we’ll come out with a victory, but as a coach you want your team to play well. It’s just a two-game slide. I’m disappointed. We want to win all our games. I’m not sure any team in the country could have beaten Florida State that night. I really believe that.”