I don't know about you, but I've had enough of moral victories, if the close loss to Temple in the Verizon Center even qualifies as such. Maryland played a well-regarded Temple team and played them close, falling by only three points in a tense 64-61 Temple victory. And the Terrapins probably saw plenty of positives in their performance, like solid play from their freshman guards and the continued dominance of Jordan Williams.
But for the third time this year, Maryland fiddled away a marquee victory on simple mistakes - namely, free throws and rebounding. It happened against Pitt, it happened against Illinois, and it happened again against Temple, where Maryland was outrebounded by ten, shot 58% from the stripe, and missed four free throws in the final four minutes. And yes, the margin of defeat was three.
The free throw shooting and rebounding problems were compounded by some bad turnovers; there were 14 total, and nine of them came in the first half. The Terrapins were yet again bit by a slow start, and Temple led by 7 at the half. That's yet another reoccurring problem for Gary Williams' squad.
And still, Maryland had their chances late in the game thanks to an outstanding performance by Jordan Williams (who had yet another double-double against very good competition with 17 points and 11 rebounds), a 10-0 run in the second half, fantastic bench play, and strong second-half defense. But the missed free throws and a deadly turnover by Dino Gregory with under a minute to go let Temple pull away. And just like that, Maryland has lost all three of its big games.
Individually, we don't need to talk about Williams, because we know what he brings. But the lackluster performance by Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie was crucial. Tucker played only 18 minutes and looked tentative. Bowie had a weird statline (2 points, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 22 minutes), but was outshone by Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard regardless. Maryland needed points out of them, and didn't get it.
Speaking of Stoglin and Howard, what revelations they were today. They very well might be the answer in the backcourt. Stoglin was the second-best Terp on the floor tonight, scoring 16 and turning it over only once. Howard was excellent in a tertiary role himself, with 6 points (including two crazy, timely layups) and 6 assists. Both of them entered the second-half when Gary Williams made wholesale changes, and they were the catalysts for the 10-0 Maryland enjoyed directly after the changes.
A shout-out also goes out to James Padgett. Very efficient game for Padge, with 8 points and 3 boards in just 14 minutes. He too had a couple of timely buckets and looked more assured of himself, even if he was scoring largely garbage buckets. It's not perfect, but it's progress. If he keeps looking like this, Maryland will be fine at the 4 in ACC play.
Just because this wasn't a moral victory doesn't mean that Maryland is a bad team, either. They have their weaknesses, sure, but they also have a lot of strengths and are ultimately about four or five plays away from being undefeated with three marquee OOC wins. There's a lot to be said for that.
Still, Maryland lost, and results are what truly matter. The Terrapins frittered away yet another résumé victory with largely unforced errors, and it hurts. This team has a lot of potential, but until they start to fix those mistakes, their ceiling is fixed low. Luckily, there's plenty time to fix their weaknesses before ACC play begins and the Terps get a January shot at Villanova, both of which will be crucial in the Terrapins' postseason hopes.