After Maryland beat Miami, many thought they were on the verge of turning the corner, with a road game against struggling Georgia Tech a perfect opportunity to prove it. Instead, we got a brutal reminder that the Terrapins are young, inconsistent, and - most of all - still mercurial offensively, especially in the second half. A brutal second-half offensive shutdown sealed a disappointing loss, as the Terps fell in Atlanta to GT, 63-61.
Georgia Tech won the opening moments thanks to a hot shooting start, taking a 10-3 lead and forcing Mark Turgeon to burn an early timeout. The Terrapins responded well, though, outscoring GT 34-21 after the timeout. Largely due to Sean Mosley's 14 points on 4-5 shooting from three, Maryland took a 37-31 lead into the break.
The Terrapins looked they were going to take control of the game early in the second, jumping out to a nine-point lead. Instead, they suffered through their patented second half lull, with the offense looking nearly as miserable as it did a week ago against Virginia. Maryland shot 7-30 from the field in the second half (23%!) and scored only 24 points; Georgia Tech took advantage, and when combined with some timely buckets from Mfon Udofia and Brandon Reed, was able to pull into the lead. The Jackets tried to give the game away late, with travels and five-second violations in the final minute, but Maryland was unable to capitalize. Nick Faust's last-second three-quarter-court heave fell short, icing the final 63-61 margin.
Today's game hurts, because it was easy to think that Maryland had matured and, instead, we found out (rather harshly) that they're the same team they were. This showcased the Terrapins' structural problems: namely, they don't have enough help to survive an entire game when Terrell Stoglin doesn't score. The ACC's leading scorer shot 5-17 from the field, finishing with 18 points - though five of those came in the final minute. Maryland is good enough to survive a half without Stoglin scoring in bunches. But they're not good enough survive two.
Part of the issue is personnel. Mosley and Faust were big in the opening twenty minutes, combining to shoot 7-8 for 20 points; in the second half, it was 1-11 for nine points. They're just not guys you can look to and get points from consistently for an entire game, especially without Stoglin taking the heat off them. But Stoglin, as good as he may be, isn't going to be lights-out every game. Another issue is more team-oriented: Maryland couldn't get easy points off their defense, couldn't get second-chance buckets, and couldn't get out on the fast break. Those are intensity points, and like many young teams, Maryland hasn't locked down that aspect yet.
In terms of individual performances, there isn't a lot of good to say. Mosley was great for a half but invisible in the second, when Maryland needed points from him so badly. I hesitate to be critical of him in that sense; it's just who he is. He's a senior; if Maryland's expecting to put up 25, they'll be disappointed every game. Same goes for Faust, although he still has plenty of time to become that player.
Stoglin's performance hurts the most. He's really been struggling lately to put up points; even against Miami he was only dialed in for a few moments. It continued today. It looks like he's started to get frustrated and take some bad shots, even for him. He's sort of regressing to the Stoglin we saw earlier in the year, and I wonder if it's because Pe'Shon Howard (the only true point guard on the team) is gone again.
A few other quick observations: Berend Weijs and Alex Len is Maryland's best defensive post combo, but they provide very little offensively. It's easy to like them when they're in because they make it so tough on other teams down low, but it also makes it tough on Maryland offensively. Also, Mychal Parker and Ashton Pankey have been fringe players for Maryland all year, with a lot of rollercoaster performances. Today? Combined for 2 points, 1-8 shooting, and 9 fouls. Most of that is Pankey. It was rough to watch.
Ending line: Maryland is young. They're inexperienced. They'll have more ups, and they'll have more downs. But these games, with a complete inability to score in the second half, are ridiculously frustrating. I'm much more down on Maryland's ability to make noise in whatever's left of this year; that said I'm not any more down on their long-term future. This season, after all, has little to do with that.