Mark Turgeon rubbed his face with both hands, staring down at the box score. The Maryland men’s basketball team’s rebounding was abysmal in a 90-83 loss to Oregon State, the defense porous. Turgeon promised to revisit the defeat in the film room. “There were so many mistakes happening,” he said. “I can’t even keep up.”
The atmosphere felt nothing like a mid-November nonconference game, but that’s what happens when the commander in chief shows up. A crowd uncharacteristically large for this time of year against this caliber of opponent was enticed into Comcast Center by the prospect of seeing President Obama, and most rose to their feet and cheered when he and the first family strode to their seats behind the Beavers’ bench.
The scouting report of Oregon State contained just two players, and that duo quickly sucked the energy from the building. Many Terrapins insisted they didn’t even notice Obama. As it turned out, they appeared not to notice senior guard Roberto Nelson (31 points) or forward Devon Collier (29 points, 11 rebounds) either.
“We really didn’t defend well at all,” forward Evan Smotrycz said. “We just didn’t do our job. We didn’t show long enough on ball screens, get help-side, box out, everything. We didn’t do it well.”
Turgeon, in his third season in College Park, prides himself on coaching teams with stingy defense and fly-trap rebounding. But possession after possession, the Beavers (2-1) found easy buckets inside, shooting nearly 60 percent for the game while attempting just eight three-pointers. Maryland (1-2) actually won the rebounding battle, grabbing 23 on the offensive end alone, though Oregon State’s high-percentage offense ripped opportunities away from the Terps on the defensive glass.
“I just can’t get our guys to box out,” Turgeon said. “We’re doing some things in practice. I’m never done trying to figure it out.”
Three games into the season, days away from flying to the U.S. Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam tournament, the Terps have already grown into a frustrated group. They missed nine free throws and committed 15 turnovers, off which the Beavers scored 29 points. Despite five players reaching double figures, including a team-high 23 points from Dez Wells, 16 from Smotrycz and 15 from Jake Layman, the rest of the group contributed just nine.
Wells, who four days earlier was benched against Abilene Christian for a “miscommunication” with Turgeon, reassumed his role as Maryland’s spark plug, attacking the rim and making all eight free throw attempts. Afterward, though, Wells accepted the blame for the loss.
“It’s just my leadership,” he said. “I take full responsibility for not having my guys ready. I’m only as good as they are. I wasn’t too good tonight for getting them ready for each half. I take responsibility for that. It’s not on us; it’s on me. I’ll get better at that.”
Neither team led by more than six points during the first half, when the lead changed nine times and the game was tied on 13 occasions, including 38-38 at intermission. Freshman point guard Roddy Peters (Suitland) played well, knifing through Oregon State’s zone defense for 10 points and six assists, but the Beavers opened the second half with an 8-0 run, aided by sloppy Terps passing and slow defensive rotations. Soon the home team was behind by a dozen points.
Despite foul trouble hampering Smotrycz, Wells and forward Charles Mitchell (10 points, eight rebounds), Maryland came within three points late in the second half. Each time, though, Oregon State marched back down the court and turned to Collier or Nelson, who provided the game’s biggest bucket by making a step-back jumper with the shot clock winding down that clinched the game.
“Until we’re committed to being a good defensive team, we’re going to have results like this,” Turgeon said.