My recap of the game last night was a bit light on substance, and purposefully so. It was a crazy game, and trying to do a full-featured, in-depth recap would've led to a lot of writing and not a lot of sense. So I decided to hold off until this morning, when I could be a bit more level-headed about things.
Note that this isn't a Four Things post - that's Ben G.'s deal, and I probably couldn't pull it off. I'm a bit simpler: stream of consciousness bullet points. Go!
Heart, grit, yadda yadda yadda. For all of Maryland's flaws - and boy do they have flaws - the Terrapins showcased some extraordinary fight in the 17 minutes last night. After Mark Turgeon got tossed, the demeanor of the entire team changed: everyone was playing with more urgency and intensity, and the result was an impressive 23-7 run to tie the game. It's often said that comebacks take a lot out of a team, and it only makes sense that they do; Maryland's comeback must've been especially draining, given how much of it seemingly came from sheer emotion. The Terrapins eventually did peter out, but only after their biggest players - Terrell Stoglin, for example - had reached well over the 40 minute mark.
At some point, Maryland will need to turn this grit, determination, and *insert intangible of choice here* into real production. I feel like we've been saying this about Maryland for two years straight, and we probably have. But as depressing as it may be at times to think of it that way, this is still a very positive aspect of this team, and if the Terrapins ever do come good, that determination will be a huge help - and a big reason they got there in the first place.
But for Juan's sake, what about everything else? It pains me to praise Maryland's fantastic comeback and effort in the final 17 minutes, because they were so ridiculously mediocre for the first 33. While it's nice that Turgeon's ejection lit a fire under them, should it really take a coach getting tossed to light that fire? (Answer: no, it shouldn't.) Maybe they just needed a catalyst for their season and this was that, but then we'll need to see that in future games. Really, Maryland's focus has been in-and-out all season long; they never give up, but sometimes they forget they're still playing basketball. Don't act like you haven't seen it - it's been in basically every second of the season, save this one. Perhaps this will end that; I hope so. Because we can't go about having Turgeon getting tossed every game.
And not only that, but execution needs to improve drastically. Maryland isn't a good team - we've established that. They're not an NCAA Tournament-quality team, and only one player - Terrell Stoglin - probably starts on any top-tier ACC squad. But they were in this game, could've won it, and probably should've won it. Same happened with Illinois. And N.C. State. And, to a lesser extent, Temple.
I'm not asking for Maryland to suddenly sprout a secondary perimeter scorer, a true floor general, a catch-and-shoot sniper, or an experienced big man. Those are roster issues and they're desperately limiting. But the Terrapins are better than what they showed today, and better than what they showed in those other games I mentioned. Or, rather, they should be better. That they're not is worrisome. I said it in the recap, and I'll say it again: the sum of Maryland's parts right now isn't very great, but they're not even reaching that most times. I now understand Mark Turgeon's constant frustration; hopefully he can get things to improve, and rapidly.
A quick note on refereeing. Was it bad? Yes. Was it heinous? Eh ... I think the missed goaltend was heinous because that's not a judgment call; unlike block/charge, something either is a goaltend or it isn't, and that most definitely was. Take those two points off the board, and that overtime period changes drastically. And to those of you saying I shouldn't be complaining about that because Maryland "should" be winning these games anyway: I really don't care. Maryland "should" be winning these games, you're right. And it'd be nice if they were an NCAA Tournament team. And heck, I'd love it if they went undefeated. Doesn't matter. They're not there. "Did" happens to be more relevant in this case than "should." I'll point out every reason they lost this game - 99% of which is their own doing - but I'll also point out a blatant missed call when it's there.
Anyway, other than that it wasn't nearly as bad as everyone else makes it out to be. Seriously, people: Maryland isn't getting screwed over by the refs, at least not more than any other team is, when you draw it out over the course of a season.
Good performance #1, Nick Faust. Good is almost always a relative term; when tracking Nick's performance, it's about improvement. And we saw that last night: with one exception, he stopped chucking bad threes (even when he had a look) and instead put the ball on the floor and got to the rim. He didn't always finish, but he'll get stronger and more comfortable as time goes on. And, somewhat incredibly, he did finish one, a jaw-dropping jam in traffic. Throw in three steals and a 3-4 performance from the stripe, and we had Faust's best performance in some time. If he keeps having incremental gains, eventually he'll put it together. The good news is that he appears to figure out what works for him, and he'll keep going back to that well.
Good performance #2, Alex Len. Again, it's always a relative term. Len wasn't that good, but I have to say I was encouraged by what I saw compared to his recent dud performances. Look, Olexiy isn't a game-changer yet. It took facing a team with no post depth and not that much size for him to really get back on track. But he did, and I give him props for that. He shot 4-6 from the field - basically all of them dunks or putbacks - and 3-4 from the stripe, with four blocks, including a crucial one in 2OT.
He's not good enough in so many areas - he needs to get smarter (silly push-off in overtime) and stronger (5-11 Shane Larkin stole a rebound right out of his hands), among other things - but he showed the potential he has to change games. We haven't seen that in the past eight contests, and it was nice to find out it isn't gone.
Problem #1: over-reliance on Terrell Stoglin. I mean, it's not like we didn't know this was a problem. And Stoglin is a part of it, true: Maryland needs his buckets and I'll let him do basically whatever to get them, but 34% shooting - plus 20(!) threes attempted on 30% shooting - probably isn't going to be good enough most days. Not that I'm not saying he should be shooting better than that, per se; again, Maryland needs his points and that's how he thought he could best get them. It's not an easy gig. But the next step for Stogs is to take the step that Grevis and Kemba took: figuring out when a bad shot - even if may go in - isn't necessary, and when a teammate might have a better look than him. He's continually improving in this regard, but last night was a step back. That's okay - one thing I've learned is that improvement may not come at all once, especially with mitigating factors - but I don't want to see it become a habit.
See, this is why I don't blame Stoglin. He might've shot 34% from the field, sure, but his guard compatriots shot 30% from the field, almost always on much easier looks. Do you blame him for not giving the ball to Pe' for a slightly better look when Pe' is 0-4 from three himself? It's an execution issue, to some extent, but mostly a roster issue: Maryland just doesn't have the scorers they need. This could improve rapidly if Nick Faust sees incremental gains and Jake Layman is as good as advertised, but as it stands now Maryland's offense will always run through Stogs, and at times only Stogs.
Problem #2: point guard play. Part of the problem is that Pe'Shon Howard is a true combo guard, not a true point guard. You can't have your point guard going 0-4 on threes - at least two of them Stoglin-type shots - and turning the ball over three times in the first half. He improved, mind you - only two turnovers in the final 30 minutes of play - but it was tough to be impressed by Pe', particularly as "getting the offense into sets" consists of "handing the ball to Terrell Stoglin." I love the guy to death, but I can't help but feel he'd be better served coming off the bench as a backup for either guard spot, where his flaws as a floor general could be more easily overlooked. Strangely, Mark Turgeon might agree: Pe' was passed over by Nick Faust in the starting lineup last night.
The scariest thing is that, unlike some of Maryland's other issues, this one doesn't show any sign of fixing itself. Seth Allen is another combo, and he's played low-level competition; while I love the potential he brings as a sniper, he's not a true point guard and expecting him to be one will only get Maryland in this situation again a few years down the line. Most true points have already committed elsewhere. Time to hope for a coaching change at Pitt or Villanova. If nothing else can we make a furious last-second run at Olivier Hanlan or something? Getting a true point ASAP is of utmost importance to me - even if that means it hurts chances with the Harrisons.
Problem #3: rebounding. Quick question: how does a team (namely, Miami) who played a big man - any big man - for only 35 minutes (of a 50 minute game) out-rebound a team (namely, Maryland) with four players upwards of 6-8 and a 7-1 behemoth? I don't know, but that's inexcusable. Maryland wins the rebounding battle, which they should've done, and they win the game. Teach these guys how to box out, pronto.
Problem #4: turnovers. You want to see what got Maryland out of the game in the first place, you can look right at the nine first-half turnovers. They finished up with 19 - not much better, but a slight improvement given the extra 10 minutes played - compared to Miami's 14. The Canes simply played smarter ball. Maryland, to go along with all their faults, simply doesn't have very good basketball IQ.
Hey, at least they figured out Mychal Parker can jump. "Okay, on the fast-break, on the fast-break ... looks like I have numbers but I just can't see a clear lane to the basket ... oh, there's Mychal Parker, the 6-6 guy who can jump out of the building ... oh, he's cutting to the net ... hmm, I wonder, is it legal to just throw the ball up around the basket and let him catch it and dunk it? ... oh it is? ... it's called an alley-oop? ... well, I'll just do that then, instead of running head-long into a stationary defender like we all seem to enjoy so much."
Seriously, he's 6-6, long as a giraffe, and has a 40" vert. If you're in transition, just throw the ball in his general vicinity.
Mark Turgeon is fiery. Turge actually didn't at all deserve to get ejected; he certainly wasn't angling for it. But dude has some fire in him. That, at least, is good to see.
Scott Spinelli: boss. Born coach. Has deserved a HC gig for a long time and would've had one last year if he didn't migrate to Maryland first; I think Turgeon will be lucky if he's on the staff for another season.
Requisite big-picture closing. I always try to close on a big picture issue, because it looks better that way. In this case: I often say things like "it's hard to be upset about this loss." That's ... not at all true here, really. It's easy to be upset about this loss. Where was the intensity for the first 33 minutes? Where was the execution? Why do people still refuse to box out?
There were positives - that endearing grit, for one - but having positives doesn't equate to happiness. They don't make the overall performance good. It wasn't. I don't know if it can improve with the current roster, or whether it'll take an influx of talent. This grittiness is nice, but the limitations are incessantly frustrating. I'm not panicking, mind you. People shouldn't have expected winning this year anyway, and if next year is the first year we start to judge things truly, then they still have plenty of time. But there are enough pieces in place for better than what we've seen. Take that however you want; I'm not necessarily upset, because I don't care too much about this year, but I'm also not happy with it.