The Maryland basketball team certainly had a pair of tight contests this past weekend in the Barclays Center Classic.
The Terrapins suffered their first loss of the season onTuesday night at the hands of Pittsburgh in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. At times the game was quite ugly for the Terps, but as always, there are some positives.
Let’s start with them before we divulge into the negatives.
- Cardiac Kids
The Terps trailed by 21 points at half and by 25 in the second half and still managed to make the game worth watchable for the final four minutes.
Anthony Cowan was at the line with a one-and-one situation that could have potentially trimmed the deficit to a two-possession game at just six points. Unfortunately, he missed the front end and that hurt the Terps chances to stage a late comeback yet again.
The thing about this team is they always seem to make the game close at the end. This is a promising sign for a young team that even when they were down big, they kept fighting.
Maryland was able to turn the laughing stock into a competitive second half that gave fans hope and something to cheer about late.
- Cowan Getting to the Line with No Time Coming off the Clock
Once is an accident, twice is a trend, and three times is evidence.
Cowan has now three times this season in three different games drawn a foul on his man guarding him as Maryland is attempting to inbound the ball.
The first game he pulled this play off was against Georgetown, which helped to allow the Terps come back late in the final minute as no time ticked off the clock.
The next game he pulled this off was late against Richmond to seal some insurance free throws.
Lastly, Cowan pulled this play off again in the second half on Tuesday evening. Unless you have watched each minute of each game this season, you probably do not know what I am talking about.
This is a subtle play that you will never see show up in the box score, but is a play to watch Cowan keep pulling off as the season progresses.
- Huerter’s Hustle
Kevin Huerter will be remembered this season for his hot stroke from deep or his block against Georgetown that sealed the victory.
However, Huerter shows hustle and intelligence on defense that won’t show up in the box score but are plays that can change a game for Maryland.
Late in Tuesday’s game, Huerter appeared as though he was going to go back to cover his man and instead jumped around and tied up the guard with the ball. The arrow kept the possession with Pitt, but Huerter displayed tremendous anticipation and hustle which was nice to see.
He also blocked a three point attempt closing out on his man on the wing.
Even if Huerter is struggling offensively, he provides defensive prowess that Nickens and Wiley if also struggling on offense do not provide.
Now let’s look at some negatives from this game. There were plenty, but I will focus on just a few.
- Jared Nickens Struggles Continue
I know I sound like a broken record with this, but Nickens’ shooting struggles could severely hurt the Terps depth and bench production this season if he does not turn it around.
Nickens made his first three-pointer on Tuesday. He then missed his next four to finish 1-of-5 from deep and 1-of-6 from the field.
If Nickens is not hitting his shots, he does not provide dribble penetration or outstanding defense that are worthy of Turgeon playing him major minutes unless there is foul trouble or someone else needs a rest.
If Huerter is struggling, I don’t think that Maryland fans will be screaming for Nickens to come into the game with his play at this point.
- Turnovers Turn Over Free Possessions
Every starter for the Terps committed three turnovers except for Justin Jackson, who committed just one.
Maryland committed 14 turnovers as a team, which led to some easy transition buckets for Pittsburgh.
There is nothing more infuriating than seeing the Terps throw the ball away and give up possessions to their opponents. Hopefully with time and experience, Maryland can begin to take better care of the ball this season.
- Dodd and Big Men Foul Trouble
I sound like another broken record here, but Damonte Dodd picked up a foul 50 seconds into the game after he got the start.
He played just 13 minutes, and also fouled out. Over the last two games, Michal Cekovsky has been the most consistent big man for the Terps.
Turgeon has also elected to play Ivan Bender more than L.G. Gill the last few games as well. Regardless of what big man gets the start for the Terps, one of them is almost a sure bet to get into early foul trouble or foul out.
Maryland really only have two true centers on the roster in Cekovsky and Dodd and need both of them to stay out of foul trouble and be productive on the floor.
Just to wrap up my thoughts about the game, this loss could not have come at a better time for Maryland.
The last time a team went undefeated in men’s college basketball was during the 1975-76 season when Indiana did it. The odds of this Maryland team not losing a game at some point this season was very slim.
This loss can be a reminder that when you play better teams and fall behind early, the deficit can be too tough to overcome at times.
Conference play is the most important part of Maryland’s season. A loss like this is better for Maryland to experience before Big Ten play begins in roughly a month.