Jan 12, 2014; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles guard Aaron Thomas (25) shoots the ball past Maryland Terrapins forward Jake Layman (10) during the first half at Donald L. Tucker Center. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s just get this out of the way right now: Maryland basketball is not a good road team. I’d chance it to say that Maryland is a dreadful road team, maybe even the worst in the conference. If the 20+ point loss at Ohio State wasn’t the evidence you needed to realize this team was garbage on the road, then perhaps you should look at a similar result at Pittsburgh. If that didn’t work, fear not, because Maryland bequeaths upon you their latest performance at Florida State on Sunday night.
The Terrapins don’t win on the road, and they almost literally never win against teams from Florida on the road. Since 2004, they’ve beaten a team from Florida on the road one time in eight tries (at Florida State in 2007). Past seasons have nothing to do with this year, but it’s worth mentioning that trips to Florida are a trip to the guillotine for Terps teams. Maybe it’s that uncomfortable flight with no in-flight meal or movie, maybe it’s the humidity.
The Terps shooting was absolutely terrible during the game, and nearly every facet of their game was off save for rebounding. Making 17 of your 51 attempts? That’s something you actually have to try to accomplish, but the Terps made it look easy. And credit the Seminoles defense just as much as Maryland’s failure to shoot the ball well. Florida State has long, athletic players who can frustrate the heck out of a jump shooting team like Maryland. They had seven blocks and forced a lot of turnovers against the Terps because of it. Okaro White had his way with the team.
The larger, more encompassing issue, was that the Terps are absolutely terrible at defending the perimeter. First it was the interior presence that needed adjustment earlier in the year, but now it is very clear the Terps are getting beat in the midrange and perimeter games on the defensive end. Roddy Peters is, unfortunately, a lazy defender at best. He tries to anticipate screens and go around them early, but forgets about the ball in the process. Devon Bookert (who?), Montay Brandon (what?) Ian Miller, Aaron Thomas ,and Montay Brandon were suplexing the Maryland guards from the perimeter. Their guards made 13 of their 16 total three pointers. How many did they miss? Seven.
It wasn’t just Peters though, who is probably the least experienced and (not coincidentally) worst defender on the team. It’s just as much everyone else. Seth Allen had his worst game as a college player yesterday, and it didn’t shock me much going against a lengthy Florida State team that forced him into incredibly tough shots (like NBA range three pointers). Allen is good, but against long teams like the Seminoles and, say, Syracuse, he will struggle mightily. On the defensive end, he may as well have been a vuvuzela; distracting, but not a factor.
One of the most frightening aspects of Jake Layman’s game is that he may be a great help defender down low, but he is very bad guarding the perimeter. Not enough lateral movement from him, and whenever Florida State brought a guard down to the paint from the perimeter and got him open with a double pick to pop back out on the other side of the three point line, Layman was late to put a hand in his face. That same play occurred at least six times yesterday, all at the expense of Jake.
The Terps are a bad defensive team though, regardless of where you play them. Mitchell is undersized, Smotrycz couldn’t guard a toddler, and Dez Wells appears either uninspired or completely frustrated to the point of apoplexy at times. None of that equates to a defensive rich environment.
On the offensive end, I think it’s worth using a bit of perspective to rationalize out this kind of loss. Look, Florida State is super athletic; always have been, probably always will be. There’s a reason you saw great games out of our two most athletic players in Nick Faust and Dez Wells. Florida State plays a game they’re comfortable with, where they can get out in open court, attack the basket, and get to the line when the whistle isn’t being swallowed.
Everyone else, though? This isn’t a game you want them to play in. Smotrycz didn’t stand a chance before the game ever started. Okaro White and Michael Ojo are way too much for him to handle. Smotrycz doesn’t have the length or speed to compete. Layman falls into a similar category (and I’m not just picking on the white guys here). Though he finally figured out he could take them to the rack at the end of the game (even though he tried to dunk on Okaro White and got completely rejected), it was way too late by then. His stat line was meaningless.
If Maryland can’t shoot the ball, and three out of their four best players won’t thrive against an athletic team like Florida State, then good luck winning against a team on the road. That’s not to sound like I know it all or I was predicting this loss from the start; it’s looking at simple realities after the fact that should have been obvious going in.
The only positive you can take away from this game is that Maryland got to the line 34 times. Thats a Gary Williams-era number, and something I can’t ever recall happening during the Turgeon era. It’s the only silver lining you can find in this loss, really; Maryland played a much more aggressive brand of basketball offensively, and while they didn’t win this time, you don’t lose many games when you get to the line 34 times. That’s simple basketball. I’ve watched a lot of it, and if a team actually tries on defense, the game should be a lot closer with that kind of number.
Take these last two losses for what they are and ignore entirely what you saw: two road conference losses. I know it’ll be hard to purge the memory of what you saw, but I can almost promise you that their next game against Notre Dame will feature a much stronger effort defensively and (probably) a victory because it’s a home game. Notre Dame can beat Duke at home, but they can lose to Georgia Tech if it’s a road game (they did both). Them’s the bends of conference play and the reality of homecourt advantage.
Until then, just grit your teeth and bear it anytime Maryland goes on the road for extended periods of time (should read as “consecutive road games”).