The energy in Comcast Center rose to capacity as a last-second comeback felt imminent. After Michael Snaer’s first free throw attempt caromed off the back iron with eight seconds left, Florida State clinging to a 63-62 lead, the Maryland basketball team was finally in position to overcome a nightmarish offensive evening and tie the program’s longest winning streak ever. The crowd roared. On the sideline, Charles Mitchell hugged walk-on Spencer Barks. And Seth Allen began dribbling up the floor.
The freshman point guard weaved through the Florida State back court, navigating to the top of the key before rising up for the potential game-winner. Except Allen missed a wide-open Alex Len, rolling to the basket off a high screen, and had his shot swatted away by Snaer.
Signs of life arrived too late for Maryland (13-2, 1-1 ACC), which dropped its first game since Nov. 9, ending a 13-game winning streak in a 65-62 decision against Florida State. The Terrapins finished with 18 turnovers, allowing the Seminoles (10-5, 2-0 ACC) to climb back from a nine-point halftime deficit. Maryland demonstrated impressive resiliency late, answering every Seminoles free throw on the other end, but dug itself into an inescapable hole with mental miscues against Florida State’s relentless defensive pressure.
“I knew from the first possession of the second half that it would be a grinder,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “We ran a play, didn’t get anything, turned it over and just throw it out of bounds. We had a lot of guys not make good decisions tonight. Give them credit, that’s the first time we saw that kind of defense for 40 minutes, and we didn’t handle it well.”
The Terps relished finally facing their first truly physical opponent since the season opener against Kentucky, long past the days of cupcake nonconference games. They wanted to be bullied, bodied inside and pushed around, so they could respond in kind. Except for most of Wednesday night, Maryland responded by over-dribbling in traffic or sailing errant passes out of bounds, its youthful energy producing ugly results.
But this will be a learning opportunity for the inexperienced Terps, a teaching point for Turgeon moving forward. Maryland hadn’t encountered a last-second situation since the Wildcats game in Brooklyn, but allowing Florida State to hang around mattered just as much.
“We definitely did, we could have put them away early,” said Faust, who had a career-high four three-pointers. “We let up in the first half a lot. A lot of turnovers. We definitely turned the ball over a lot and missed a lot of open opportunities.
“A lot of teams go through this phase. It’s just another loss you have to get through. We have another big game coming up. We just have to learn from this.”
Everything, it seemed, snowballed at the wrong time for Maryland against the Seminoles pressure. Dez Wells finished with just five points on 2-for-9 shooting and committed five turnovers. Logan Aronhalt made 1 of 5 three-pointers. Len notched his fourth double-double this season with 15 points and 10 rebounds, but had three turnovers and at times got pushed around in the paint. Florida State forward Okaro White, meanwhile, took over in the second half, finishing with 20 points, nine rebounds and six blocks.
Bookending the game with uncharacteristically lackluster execution, Maryland staggered out of the gates, coughing up five turnovers by the under-16 media timeout and struggling to discover any semblance of offensive consistency. Consecutive three-pointers by Jake Layman and Faust sparked the Comcast Center crowd into a frenzy, and the Terps followed with a 7-0 run that brought the lead to 23-15.
Maryland never mustered that defining run, however, allowing Florida State to linger and chip away. The Seminoles finally took their first lead since early in the first half, 44-43, on a second-chance floater from White that capped off a 9-0 run, while the Terps saw their shooting percentage slowly decline and turnover rate balloon.
“When we were up 10 or 11, it should have been 15 or 16,” Turgeon said. “We were missing wide-open shots, throwing the ball out of bounds. They weren’t making shots. I just felt like there were a lot of opportunities for us in the first half.”
Aronhalt tied things up at 46 heading into the under-eight media timeout, snapping a nearly seven minute-long scoreless stretch for the Terps since Len skied baseline for a two-handed slam. The lead see-sawed from there. White scored 15 straight points for the Seminoles, who blew things open with another unanswered run, forcing the disappointed fans into early exits before Maryland’s late fireworks exploded and later fizzled, ultimately running out of time.
“We were saying hey, we’ll take a two, we’ll take a two,” Turgeon said of the final play. “Everyone knew that, they spread the word. Take a two. They zoned up on us pretty good, and we just couldn’t get by them.”