From here on out, the Terrapins are more than likely going to have to rely on luck more than anything else to have a chance at the tournament. The Maryland Terrapins dropped a must-win game on the road against Georgia Tech 79-68 and in doing so all but sealed their fate as a team that won’t be making the tournament.
A road game against Georgia Tech is one that most tournament teams win. Even bubble teams are more than likely to pick up a win against a team that had gone 4-10 in the ACC up until the win against Maryland. 14-12 with a grand total of zero big victories? That’s cake. So what did the Maryland Terrapins do? They were entirely dismantled as a unit, and looked every bit the part of a team that will not be making the tournament.
Too many chinks in the armor, too many losses, too many problems to count. Call it whatever you want: the Terrapins play against Georgia Tech essentially cast away any uncertainty a tournament committee would have in leaving Maryland out of the Big Dance. I mean realistically, why would anyone want to put in a team that can’t put together winning streaks, that can’t perform on the road, and is more than likely to turn the ball over on 50% of their possessions than shoot 50% from the floor because they don’t have a point guard? They wouldn’t, and Georgia Tech was the summation of all those concerns.
The Terrapins have had numerous issues all season, and one gigantic issue that reared its head against Georgia Tech was the Terrapins complete inability to guard the perimeter. Georgia Tech is one of the worst teams in the ACC from deep; coming into the game, they hit 31% of their three pointers as a team. These players weren’t big-time sharp shooters, they were streaky guards who tended to miss a lot more than they made. Brandon Reed, a guy who hit 29% of his threes last season, went a perfect 3-of-3 from long range. He was aided by freshman Marcus Georges-Hunt, who also chipped in two 3-pointers of his own. Yes, they only hit six, but they had the opportunity to hit plenty more. There were, at times, absolutely no one guarding their players on the perimeter. That’s player effort and coaching scheme. Even if they miss, getting the amount of open looks that the Yellow Jackets did all game is symptomatic of a team with no answers. It opens up down low once a few go in, and that’s what Georgia Tech took advantage of.
Of course, six three pointers isn’t a big deal for some teams. Responding with three or four of your own lessens the impact those have on the game. Unfortunately, Maryland happens to field about five scorers who are cut from the “streaky” gib. It’s why you’ll see Jake Layman hosting a shooting gallery of awfulness on the court; two of his eight three point misses barely hit the rim, another two were about five seconds into the shot clock, and none of them were particularly close. That’s Jake Layman at his worst, which is the product that Maryland gifted to Georgia Tech. He looked inexperienced, and hurt the team with his chucking, “heat check” attitude. When he hits his first few shots, Layman is an incredibly tough matchup. When he doesn’t? He probably shouldn’t be playing in the game.
But the same could be said about Seth Allen, whose 2-of-6 shooting display from deep caused Mark Turgeon’s head to spontaneously combust on the court. Allen has a quick trigger finger, yes, but he also opts out of easier looks to attack the basket and try to force something ugly inside. He did it numerous times, and was another freshman who just looked out of sorts on the court. There may have been comparisons between he and Terrell Stoglin a week ago, but say one thing about Stoglin: he wouldn’t have passed up the easy looks from deep that Allen got. The Terrapins did that with much aplomb, and Georgia Tech had no problem funneling their guards into the paint and contesting every attempt.
The Terrapins were also yet again outrebounded (31-27 to be exact), but they were severely beaten in the paint as well, and a lot of that was due to how horrible James Padgett looked. He isn’t Dwight Howard at cleaning up the boards, but he typically holds his own. Tonight, however, freshman Robert Carter Jr. tossed him around the court like a rag doll. Padgett got torched in every way you can imagine; off the dribble, with Carter’s back to the basket, face up. You name it, Carter Jr. did it against Padgett. I hate to call a player out like that, especially one like Padgett who plays hard every time he is on the court, but Mark Turgeon should have recognized early on that some type of defensive change needed to be made when Padgett was being made to look like a fool. He didn’t, and Carter Jr. had no problem scoring in transition, in a half court set, didn’t matter. He got every look he wanted.
(Note: when a team turns the ball over like the Terrapins, they can’t afford to get outrebounded any night).
It’s a credit to Georgia Tech for getting six blocks using that same strategy mentioned earlier, and pressing Nick Faust and the other guards early and often in order to force turnovers (of which he had six of the team’s 14). Georgia Tech answered everything the Terrapins threw at them, and matched them point for point the entire game. Daniel Miller got Alex Len and other bigs in foul trouble by being aggressive, and got to line 12 times tonight (he finished with 16 points and 9 rebounds). In fact, Georgia Tech landed 20 points from the charity stripe because of how easily they were able to attack the paint. The Terrapins were gashed and slashed repeatedly. Tech did everything they were supposed to do in order to win a game, while the Terrapins didn’t.
It’s a known fact that the Terrapins aren’t a good road team, so it boggles my mind why this loss is considered a surprise by any means. Maryland has guards who are athletic enough to slow the game down and get some potential foul shots to supplant their poor shooting from deep, but that didn’t happen. Instead, they played like a young team who felt certain that their shots would eventually go in, and by the time they realized they wouldn’t, the game was already out of hand. It’s the difference between crafty, veteran teams that make the tournament, and youthful, streaky teams that usually don’t. It gets better with time, but this year might not be when things get better.
What does this loss mean? Well, it more than likely means that the Terrapins won’t be in the tournament unless the win literally every game they play from here on out. Wins against Virginia and North Carolina would definitively make things interesting, but this loss to Georgia Tech looks nasty among any good wins. It’s too late in the season for a team like Maryland to suffer a loss like that, and yet they did. That game against Wake Forest doesn’t even look like an easy W anymore, and that game at Virginia to finish the season? Ugh.
As I said before, Maryland is going to have to get a lot of luck going their direction to get a spot in the tournament, which is what matters the most right now. The bad news is that the Terrapins really don’t have any time left to get lucky.