It's tough to win a game when you shoot 25% from the field, and the Maryland Terrapins learned that the hard way tonight. The Terps made only 12 field goals and barely half of their free throws en route to a painful 62-42 loss to the 15th-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in their opening game in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
This was, quite literally, almost never in doubt. Alabama jumped out to an early 10-3 lead, and Maryland would never get closer than that. The deficit was 16 at half; by late in the second-half, it would grow as high as 25. Maryland's final point output of 42 was the lowest in at least decades: Gary Williams' lowest-scoring game was 44 points, and I don't feel like going back right now and doing more research on a note as depressing as that. You can't draw anything from it given Maryland's roster and style of play, but yes: Mark Turgeon's second game as the Maryland coach scored fewer points than any game Gary ever coached at UMD. Means absolutely nothing, but there it is.
To kick things off, let's run through a few stats. Terrell Stoglin finished 0-9 from the field with three assists and three turnovers. Sean Mosley was 1-8. Nick Faust was 1-6 from the field, 0-2 from deep, and 0-2 from the stripe. Mychal Parker was 2-7. Throw them all together, and Maryland's four guards finished 4-30 on the day.
Again, when a team's guards put in that sort of performance, there's really not much hope. But when your big men are as inexperienced as Maryland's are, it's just about impossible.
As for the cause of it, I suppose there's a variety of facets there. Maryland's offense looked disjointed and failed to run sets to get easy and open shots. To make matters worse, Alabama is one of the best defensive teams in the country, and that surely impacted things.
Perhaps most of all, Maryland just plain couldn't find the bottom of the net. It looked like confidence played into it to some extent after the early poor start. But Stoglin and Faust aren't that poor at shooting. In fact, they're pretty good at it. Some of their shots were plain silly and obviously forced, but they also had a half-dozen open looks that clanked or missed everything entirely. We even saw Mosley's lay-up demons re-emerge. It was sort of bizarre.
Of course, the inability to run sets to get easy shots hurt, as mentioned above, and they probably should've focused on finding ways to slash more, which seemed to work slightly better. But even once they got easy shots, they rarely hit them. It was an all-around terrible offensive performance shooting the ball, and that's about all you can say about it. I have a feeling that might improve a bit as time goes on, but we'll see how that develops.
It's still clear how much this team misses Pe'Shon Howard, and I feel like I'll say that every recap from here on out. Heck, I'd even love to have Sterling Gibbs at this point. I'm a big Faust fan and think his passing ability is extraordinary at times (more in a minute on that) but making him run the offense seemed to distract him from scoring. And, in case you couldn't tell, Maryland needs that more than anything else right now. Stoglin was little better; he still tends to want to do everything. Maryland needs a distributor who will let Faust and Stoglin operate off the ball and focus on putting points on the board.
The good news came defensively: Alabama is by no means an offensive world-beater, but keeping any team to 62 is pretty solid work. And Tony Mitchell, a career 30% shooter from beyond-the-arc, hit 3-4 tonight. It's just unrealistic to expect to run into that sort of hot streak every game. Once they started to close down on outside shooters, things got better. It wasn't a fantastic performance - Mitchell was able to do much of what he wanted, and Trevor Releford was usually able to get around what looked like some lazy play on the perimeter - but it's a building block.
All in all, it's clear that Turgeon has put an emphasis on defense early in the season, and it's obvious on both ends of the floor. Maryland's offense is a work-in-progress and probably will be, to some degree, until Howard returns. The defense seems pretty solid in comparsion, and will keep Maryland in some games against the ACC's non-elites.
As far as individual performances go, Stoglin had by far the worst performance of his career, but it's not like Turgeon has any choice but to play him major minutes. Mosley did have a few blocks, but looked just about terrible offensively as well. I was actually pleasantly surprised by Parker; my expectations from him are just about nil, but he not only had a few strong blocks, he also showed some aggressiveness in slashing to the hoop and trying to finish at the rim. It rarely worked, but what you're concerned about right now is the idea behind it. And the idea was a good one.
Faust really seemed to struggle offensively, and he couldn't get into the scoring flow while also manning the point. Thing is, he really is a solid passer. His head's always up and looking down the floor; twice he crossed the half-court line and immediately found an open man hanging around the paint when Alabama's D got lazy. Another working off the ball, he drove the lane and dished to an open James Padgett when the help D came. You can utilize that passing at any position, and it'll serve Maryland well when he's at the 2.
Speaking of Padgett: for the second game in a row, I was pleasantly surprised by both he and Ashton Pankey. Padge actually led Maryland in scoring (only 9, but I'll take what I can get) and had a filthy spin move on the inside that we need to see more. Pankey was very active on the glass and finished with 10 boards. On a day in which everyone was bad to some degree, at least Pankey and Padge were a little better.
We'll have some more later. Now the Terps will face the loser of Colorado and Wichita St. tomorrow at,
I believe, 5:00 6:30. See you then.