It had been sixty-two days since the Maryland Terrapins had experienced the bitter taste of defeat.
Last night, the Terps blew a nine point halftime lead en route to only their second loss of the season — a three point defeat by the hands of the Florida State Seminoles. Maryland was careless with the basketball from the jump, turning it over four times in the first two minutes of action. On the night, the Terps gave the ball away to the Seminoles 18 times. When you compare that to the 13 assists that Maryland managed to record it is somewhat amazing that they only lost to Florida State by three points. This marked the Seminoles first win in College Park since February 14, 2001.
The fact that, with Maryland literally giving the game away, Florida State could not take advantage of the opportunity and pull away from the Terps is a testament as to how ugly of a basketball game this truly was. At the Under 16 TV Timeout the score was 4-3 Seminoles. By the end of the first half Maryland somehow held a nine point lead despite having turned the ball over 11 times in only 20 minutes of action. How was this possible? Well, despite their complete and total lack of efficiency on offense the Terps managed to impose their will on the Seminoles on the defensive end of the floor. Maryland held Florida State to 31% shooting from the field and out rebounded them by 15.
Something had to give in the second half; either Maryland would finally start to value the basketball and not waste possessions with turnovers or Florida State would find something that worked on offense and go on a run. The Terps started with a bang stretching their lead out to 12 points, but, unfortunately for Maryland fans it was the latter that took place and Okaro White took over for the Seminoles.
During a stretch that saw the Maryland Terrapins go without a point for over seven minutes, White scored fifteen consecutive points for Florida State, erasing the 12 point lead Nick Faust had given the Terps early in the half. White, as Maryland coach Mark Turgeon put it, was the best player on the floor last night finishing with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 6 blocked shots.
A Logan Aronhalt three pointer (his only basket of the night on six attempts) ended the scoring drought and gave Maryland a 51-50 lead for a moment, but an old fashioned three-point play from none other than Okaro White on the other end gave the Seminoles a 53-51 lead with 4:05 to go that the ‘Noles never relinquished.
Florida State stretched their lead out to as much as eight points, at 59-51, with 1:04 remaining after Michael Snaer was allowed to get right to the bucket for an uncontested layup. Up until that point in the second half Maryland had more turnovers than made baskets, giving fans little hope that a furious rally would give Maryland any chance of winning as they began to file towards the exits during the Terps final timeout.
Maryland refused to throw in the towel, however. After a dunk by Alex Len and a three pointer from Seth Allen the Terps had cut the Seminoles lead to only three points, at 59-56, with 33.6 seconds remaining. After a mental error on defense allowed Ian Miller, a 47% free throw shooter, to possess the ball for nearly four seconds without anyone from Maryland fouling the Noles got the ball to their All-American, Michael Snaer, who sank two from the charity stripe.
Once again, the Terrapins refused to give up as Seth Allen barreled his way to the rim making a tough layup in traffic while also drawing a foul on the defense. Allen hit his free throw and Maryland had now cut the Florida State lead to two with 19.9 seconds remaining. Devon Bookert hit two more three throws for the Seminoles before Nick Faust blew the roof off of the Comcast Center. The sophomore from Baltimore hit a deep, contested three pointer to pull Maryland within one, at 63-62, with 10.6 seconds remaining.
After having trouble inbounding the basketball the Seminoles were forced to call a timeout. Florida State was able to get it into Michael Snaer who inexplicably missed the front end of his trip to the foul line. Maryland had a chance, despite the abysmal ball control and utter lack of offensive execution in the second half, to tie or win in regulation. Snaer hit the back end and the Terps found themselves down by two with 8.8 seconds remaining in the game.
Conventional wisdom always says in a situation like this, when you are the home team, you go for the tie and extend the game an additional five minutes. After the game Mark Turgeon said as much in terms of the shot he was looking for from his team. The Terps ran a high pick and roll with Seth Allen and Alex Len, Boris Bojanovsky hedged on the screen but did not roll with Len to the basket leaving two men on Allen. Allen missed the open Len rolling to the basket and instead attempted a three pointer for the win from the top of the key which was blocked by Michael Snaer.
As I said from our Twitter account following the play, I cannot fault Allen for taking the shot as he had just made a three from the exact same spot on the floor a couple of possessions prior. Snaer made a great play in a big spot for his team and that must be commended. What I do believe, however, is that had Maryland not had to burn all of their timeouts to stop the bleeding during the Seminoles second half runs that Turgeon would have reiterated the fact that he wanted them to go for the two and the tie. Would Len had been able to go in for an attempt at a dunk with time running out to tie the game had Allen found him rolling to the basket? Probably, but hindsight is also always 20/20.
The fact of the matter is that single play did not lose Maryland the game. In the second half Maryland shot 10/32 to the tune of 26 points while committing seven turnovers. Of those 26 points the Terps managed to put up in the final 20 minutes of regulation, 11 came as a result of the furious rally in the final 1:04. You cannot expect to go 19 minutes in an ACC game while only scoring 15 points and have a realistic shot at victory. Had Florida State not been equally as anemic on the offensive end last night this game could have been a whole lot worse for the Terrapins.
The Terrapins were led on offense by Alex Len who finished with a team high 15 points and 10 rebounds. Nick Faust chipped in with 14 points and 4 rebounds while Seth Allen was the only other Maryland player to reach double figures finishing his night with 13 points.
Hope is not lost, however. While the thirteen game winning streak has come to an end, the Terrapins are still the owners of a 13-2 (1-1) record and have a chance to put this loss behind them this Sunday night as the Terrapins travel to Coral Gables, Florida to take on the Miami Hurricanes on ESPN Sunday Night Hoops (8 p.m. ESPNU). Mark Turgeon will surely use this loss as a teaching tool for his young team and I would expect we will see a Maryland team hungry to get back on the winning side of things this weekend.