Another meaningful non-conference game, another close loss. Four things we got out of Maryland's loss to Temple are below. Add any others you feel were learned in the comments.
1. It's the same old song and dance.
Maryland's free throw shooting has cost them before. So has their lack of ball control. So have their slow starts. So has their rebounding. And so has their lack of outside shooters. And every last one of them hurt them against Temple.
They shot 58% from the line, including 3-7 from Jordan Williams and 0-4 in the final four minutes. They had 14 turnovers, including 9 in the first half. They were losing by 7 at half and by 15 just a few minutes into the second. They were outrebounded by 10. And they shot 3-10 from beyond-the-arc, often having no offensive option other than Jordan Williams in the post.
For the most part, the things exposed in this loss were nothing new. These are problems that have been around all year, and they're going to stick around for the foreseeable future. Maryland has weaknesses outside of these, sure, but these are the most pronounced and, for now, the most important. Some of them are mentality problems. Some of them are limitations of the team and won't change until next year. And some of them have been problems for years. But they're all still there, they're all still causing problems, and they're all well-known by the fanbase. Unless something big changes, we'll be complaining about these all year.
2. Two minutes and thirty-three seconds into the second half, we witnessed a seismic change. And it might define the season.
Maryland's starters had committed three turnovers to start the second half, broken up only by a missed jumper from Cliff Tucker. Temple's lead had stretched to 15 and it looked guaranteed to stretch even farther.
Gary Williams made a statement: he subbed out every player on the floor, minus Jordan Williams, taking out three seniors and a junior for three freshmen and a sophomore. Want to know what happened next? Maryland went on a 10-0 run.
Adrian Bowie, Sean Mosley, Cliff Tucker, and Dino Gregory were unquestionably outplayed by their younger counterparts of Pe'Shon Howard, Terrell Stoglin, Haukur Palsson, and James Padgett. Don't believe me? Take a look at the chart:
With the exception of Jordan Williams for Berend Weijs, the bench were better than the starters today. And if the postgame quotes were any indication, both Williamses (Gary and Jordan) meant business with the benchings. Seniors sitting on the bench being upstaged by freshmen is a mentality-changing thing; they'll either get better fast or they'll be sitting on the bench to start the game, not just to finish it.
Whether Bowie and Tucker take it positively or negatively, I don't know. But there's no way this stretch didn't have a big impact on the mind of everyone associated with the program, from the starters to the bench players to Gary himself. Expect changes because of it.
3. Lineup shifts are on the horizon, especially for Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker. It's as much due to the freshmen's impressive play as it is the seniors' disappointing play.
Sean Mosley is excused from the above group thanks to what he can do defensively, but Bowie and Tucker are staring down the barrel of a benching. Bowie's been wildly inconsistent all year, interspersing solid and awful performances. Today was one of the latter ones. He was all but invisible much of the game and did a terrible job of getting the offense flowing. He brings positives, especially in transition, but Terrell Stoglin has been just as good, if not better, all year. Today, Stoglin's 16 compared to Bowie's 2 was just the icing on the cake. Maryland's a better team when Stoglin's on the floor, and has been the past couple of games. I don't see the change happening next game, but expect to see it come by January.
Elsewhere, Tucker's holding on, but he's On Notice. The Saga has continued, perhaps unsurprisingly, as Tucker's turned out three average games in a row, the last two of which have been terrible. He didn't score against Penn State and was largely invisible tonight, with 2 points on 1-4 shooting. He received the fewest minutes of all the starters with a mere 18, playing only 5 minutes in the second half.
Cliff was supposed to be the go-to guy on the perimeter, and for the first part of the season, he was. Then came the Illinois benching, and it's been up and down ever since. Maybe the problem was caused by Gary or maybe it wasn't, but it's there. He's tentative and Pe'Shon Howard, while not perfect, is smarter with the ball and brings just as much, if not more, defensively. Tucker's been looking over his shoulder most of the season, and I don't expect it to stop now that Howard's creeping up on his spot. This one is far less concrete, but it's worth keeping an eye on. Quite simply, Maryland just can't keep getting so little production out of a starting spot with the hope he'll explode again.
4. Largely, we know what this team is. We just don't know how successful they can be.
I'm more confused about this team than anything else coming off the loss. Maryland has a lot of very well-defined weaknesses. Just look at the first point. They're young and they lack a killer instinct, as many young teams do. Temple is the weakest marquee team they were going to play this year and represented the best chance at a premier OOC win; they couldn't pull that one out virtually at home, and defeating Villanova or an ACC team on the road will be much more difficult. Getting that oh-so-coveted marquee OOC win might just not happen for this team.
Yet not all is lost. Maryland has lost three games this year, all by single-digits against top-flight opponents, two of which were one-possession games. They've done it largely with largely self-inflicted errors, leaving hope that they can improve down the stretch. The Terrapins aren't anything close to dead in the water with three losses, as much as this one hurt. And despite all those weaknesses listed above, Maryland's good enough to compensate for them against all but the best of teams.
But the question still remains: can they defeat a top-tier team? I really don't know. With the ACC as down as it is this year, the selection committee won't look kindly to teams that run over conference fodder but fell short out of conference and against the conference's elite. They obviously have the potential to do it and have come close enough three times already. All it takes is one game where they overcome all of those hurdles, all of those weaknesses - which they can do and have done before against lesser competition - and Maryland gets the win they so desperately need.
There's one problem: doing it. That's still the largest hurdle, and the one that Maryland's been unable to get over through three tries. Again, Temple was the best shot at it, and they came up short. So will they be able to do it against Villanova and Duke, teams that will be better prepared to handle Maryland's press and Jordan Williams?
Your guess is as good as mine. We know that they can play with the best in the country. We just don't know yet if they're good enough to beat one of them, and we probably won't until (or if) they actually do it.