Feb 24, 2014; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins head coach Mark Turgeon reacts from the sidelines against the Syracuse Orange at Comcast Center. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Starting Five And Thoughts On Maryland-Syracuse


Thoughts on Maryland’s loss against Syracuse…

That game summed up Maryland’s season pretty accurately. Maryland botches the first half via some calamity of errors (turnovers, terrible shooting, mismanagement), and storms back in the second half by summarily dominating an opponent on the backs of their star player. Then, the last few minutes occur and Maryland’s head explodes and the first half problems rear their heads again. Heard that story before? Go rewatch the Duke game, or the UNC one, or UVA, or North Carolina State, or Pitt, or Connecticut.

Every single one plays out very similarly, and it’s what this season has been about: incomplete performances. Why doesn’t Dez Wells play well in the first half of big games? Why doesn’t Jake Layman play well (period) in conference play or in most big games? Why does Nick Faust make some of the decisions he makes with the ball? Why didn’t Turgeon call a timeout? They’re all questions that arise during all the losses this season, and that’s because they are the problems.

It isn’t just one factor that has lead Maryland to this paltry 13-loss season and the afterthought of SportsCenter highlights. It’s all of them. We can blame Turgeon for a lot of things, including not drawing up a play with time left on the clock against Syracuse instead of having Faust drive up the court. We can blame him for the supposed lack of cohesiveness in the first half despite having a week to prepare for this game. If you’re feeling really vindictive, you could blame Turgeon for bringing in kids who aren’t meshing together.

But you can’t blame Turgeon for some of these turnovers, you just can’t. Maryland’s players were making those turnovers happen, and it was Evan Smotrycz who fouled out in record time. Mark Turgeon did look like he wanted to call a timeout off that free throw miss, but Nick Faust took that drive. Layman was the one standing in the corner not getting involved in the first half and missing a potential game tying free throw. That was his role, partially, in the offense against Syracuse’ zone. Roddy Peters was the one missing those free throws in the second half then committing a turnover.

It isn’t just one singular thing, and it’s clear the team needs work in a lot of aspects. Does it mean you should scrap the entire program? Of course not, that’s foolish and short-sighted. Looking at the picture in a whole, it isn’t a mess. Maryland is one of the younger teams in the NCAA, taking the #4 team in the country to the wire despite playing an absolutely terrible game of basketball. Bad coaches don’t do that, and they don’t do it consistently.

Maryland’s margin of defeat is frustratingly miniscule, which is what makes this season so frustrating. Every game seems to be a close loss. It’s so low that you have to give credit to the team as well for playing through a lot of bad luck. They’re trying, and doing their best. Maryland looked like it’s given up one time this season (at Florida State). Outside of that game, this team has been competing as best they can.

That’s not absolving the team for their losses, and it definitely makes things hurt that much more. Because Maryland, lumps and all, put under a microscope, has been a few shots shy this entire season. That’s okay to be frustrated with if you’re a fan, and it’s certainly making the season drag on.

The Starting Five

PG: It’s amazing what some rest can do for you. Seth Allen had been shooting pretty poorly in the two games leading up to Syracuse (Duke and Wake Forest). Part of that comes from the fact that we forget he broke his foot earlier this year, and was playing more minutes than everyone else on the team despite probably not being 100%.

Well go figure, Allen gets five days rest and shoots 54% from the field and blasts in six three pointers. A rested and healthy Seth Allen really helps this team, and it’s unfortunate that his foot injury happened so early in the year, because you can’t help but wonder what would have happened if they had that shooting all season long. Allen was the main reason Maryland stayed remotely close to Syracuse yesterday.

SG: Talk about the worst possible time to come up bum. Nick Faust was shooting better than 50% the past three games, turning it over less than two times a game, and playing wholly within himself. He was coming off a career game in what is undoubtedly his most frustrating season, and most expected him to do big things against Syracuse.

Unfortunately, that Syracuse length bothered Faust big time. Sure, he went 5-of-6 from the line, but he missed all his field goal attempts, turned the ball over three times, and blew a very crucial layup late in the game instead of calling a timeout. Faust played very solid defense against Syracuse, but they needed some offensive output from him and didn’t get it. He’s still rebounding and distributing well, but the other aspects of his game were brutal.

SF: I harped on it earlier, but this one is a two-parter. Dez Wells needs to activate Dez Wells mode earlier in games. He seemed to come out a little tentative against Syracuse, but that was also a product of where they ran him in the offense. Believe it or not, putting Dez in the middle of the zone is actually a major way to defeat the Syracuse one. You put your best ball handler in the high post and his looks are either A) jump shot if he’s open, B) drive and collapse the zone or C) kick out to open shooter when zone collapses.

Maryland missed their shots, and that’s why the strategy was unsuccessful. Part of that falls on our other “small forward” Jake Layman. Layman in the first half was a function of that offensive strategy against the zone. But there were plenty of times Maryland did not run that set, and Layman was still playing passively. He also didn’t show up when the Terps needed him most in the second half. His lack of aggressiveness is best shown here, by his freshman and sophomore year in-conference stats:

Season School Conf G MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2012-13 Maryland ACC 18 22.5 2.6 6.1 .418 1.2 2.2 .550 1.3 3.9 .343 0.8 1.1 .700 3.4 0.8 0.4 0.6 0.7 1.7 7.2
2013-14 Maryland ACC 15 30.9 3.5 8.6 .411 2.1 4.7 .457 1.4 3.9 .356 1.4 2.1 .677 4.2 0.9 1.5 0.7 1.4 2.3 9.9

Read: No change at all.

PF: I knew going into the Syracuse game that Evan Smotrycz was going to struggle. His shot hasn’t been going in lately, and Syracuse features some of the more athletic big men in the country, whereas Smotrycz has a YMCA-ready game. Smotrycz was going to have to foul to stop anyone on the defensive end, and he wasn’t going to produce much on offense because Syracuse was going to let him shoot (and as I said before, his shot wasn’t falling).

Still, Maryland could have really used a good shooting Smotrycz against Syracuse, to bust the zone and hit some three pointers to get them back into the game quicker and normalize the offense. Unfortunately, Smotrycz is suffering from the same thing Jake Layman is: poor conference play. Smotrycz is shooting 37% in conference play, and while his rebounding is better and his shooting from long range is decent, nothing else is clicking very well.

C: Charles Mitchell, Shaquille Cleare, Damonte Dodd combined stats: 2 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, -2. I don’t think I need to say more, but outside of Charles Mitchell, who was going to struggle mightily no matter what against that Syracuse length, none of the big men are ready for prime time. Dodd got abused in the paint over and over again, and Shaquille Cleare was relatively invisible, save for his turnover.

Tags: Maryland Basketball Maryland Terrapins Syracuse Terps