I love Terrell Stoglin as much as the next guy, but sometimes he alone isn't enough to win games. Especially when the other team goes on 21-3 runs in the second half. Yeah, those are tough ones to win.
That was the case tonight. Maryland received a typically virtuoso performance from their star sophomore guard, but was bowled over in the second half by the Florida St. Seminoles, flying high after their 33-point stomping of North Carolina. Michael Snaer dropped in 19 and Ian Miller had another 18 for the Noles, who coasted to an 84-70 victory that dropped Maryland to 2-2 in the ACC.
The Terrapins had to play much of the first half with their frontcourt in foul trouble: Alex Len, James Padgett, and Berend Weijs all picked up two quick fouls, which forced Ashton Pankey into a ton of playing time. Mark Turgeon decided to gamble a bit and play Weijs to protect Len and Padgett, who played only five and six minutes in the first half, respectively. You can predict the result: Maryland's frontcourt had only one rebound, the Terrapins lost the battle of the boards 19-16, and Florida State center Bernard James went for 11 and 5 in the first half. Still, Maryland trailed only by three at the break, almost solely thanks to Terrell Stoglin's 13 points and 3 assists.
Stoglin's hot streak continued into the second half, scoring seven points right out of the gate and giving Maryland their first lead of the game. The Seminoles promptly answered with that aforementioned 21-3 run, giving FSU a 16-point lead and just about knocking the Terps out of the contest. Maryland hung around and had a few mini-runs to keep the score respectable, but were never a serious threat to retake the lead.
Maryland fought FSU blow-for-blow for most of the game until the gigantic run blew their doors off. That was the only time Florida State's lauded defense really imposed itself on Maryland: during that run, the Terrapins had nine possessions. Six of them were turnovers.
That's the kind of stretch that will emphasize everything wrong with a team. In Maryland's case, that's an over-reliance of Terrell Stoglin, poor transition defense, and poor and inconsistent frontcourt play. These are things that can be compensated for when the offense is firing and Stoglin is hitting. When the team isn't even getting shots off, they're deadly. Maryland got overpowered by a more complete and a stronger squad. That basic.
To begin with, Stoglin deserves some serious credit for carrying this team on his back (doe) all game long. He started out 6-10 from the field and 4-5 from the field for 20 points - meanwhile, no one else had more than 5. He finished up with 27 - no one else was in double-figures. You can look at this as a problem in the way Maryland is put together structurally - and it is - but it's not Stoglin's fault he's the only one who can score. He slowed down after that stretch, because, let's face it, he's human and can't score ever possession. But no one on Maryland has any idea how to help him out.
But what made Stoglin so good tonight was that he became a more complete player. He had four assists and only one turnover. He forced the issue less than he has in the past - even many of his second-half misses were wide-open looks that simply didn't fall. His defense still isn't where he it needs to be but he's getting much more active in all facets of the game. He's been a pet project (or peeve?) of Turgeon since arriving in College Park, and it seems like Stoglin has responded. It's good to see him becoming a more complete player; now it's time to work on everyone else.
Pe'Shon Howard? Nick Faust? Sean Mosley? Alex Len? Sorry, they're not there. In the case of Howard and Mosley, they'll probably never be the guy who can be a #2 scorer every night - Mosley is more situational than anything else, and Howard needs to focus on being a pure point guard and running the offense. Faust and Len could get there, but they're still freshman and far from where they need to be.
In fact, this has continued a really weak stretch for Howard. He finished with four points on 1-4 shooting with four assists and three TOs. He keeps trying to do too much with his passes, and the end result is pretty poor. Point guard play is more than A:TO ratio, but when your point guard's A:TO ratio is three times worse than Stoglin's - y'know, that guy who never passes and tries to force the issue - it's not a good sign. Howard needs to assert himself more in the halfcourt, and I don't mean taking more shots: he needs to be the floor general, force the offense to run sets when it needs to, and control the tempo more effectively than he's done.
Mosley was all but invisible offensively, which I guess shouldn't be too surprising: he's had a good stretch, but the hype surrounding him was premature. He is who he is right now, and that's a guy who's capable of putting up 15 any given night but won't do it every night. He's not going to look for his own shot, and Maryland didn't work to involve him in the offense otherwise.
Len is perhaps the most important guy to look at, because this was easily his least-impressive performance. He was completely overmatched physically against the interior tanks that are Bernard James and Xavier Gibson, and he simply got outmuscled all game long. But it wasn't all physical: you could see him get a little frustrated, and he wasn't nearly as active as we've seen. He'll get better, but hopefully this has shown everyone the areas he really does need to improve upon.
Guys like Faust, Mychal Parker, and Ashton Pankey didn't really change the paradigm tonight: they all looked like they've looked like in the past, which in this case is a good thing. All three are still young, growing, and getting better. Seeing Faust come back from a truly bad first half to score 10 in the second, even if all of them were in garbage time, was a pleasant sight. He's starting to look to take defenders off the dribble more, and he's such a better player when he does. I was more encouraged by him than I was anyone else.
As a team, the problems were everywhere, but were particularly bad in offensive execution and some sloppy defense. I had guessed in the preview that Stoglin getting the green light would be a way to break down FSU's vaunted defense, and it turned out that it was. Problem was, Stoglin eventually got cold, and Maryland couldn't so much as run a set successfully without him creating something. The offensive rebounding that won them games in the past was absent here, too. All things told, Maryland didn't shoot the ball poorly - in fact, the opposite is true, as they hit at a 50% rate, which was even better than FSU's 47%. No, the problem was that FSU had an extra 13 shot attempts. And that'll kill you.
The Seminoles also dominated the transition game, consistently beating Maryland back and getting some easy points that way. That, as much as Maryland's turnovers, fueled their gigantic run. Really, if you take out the easy points in transition and the easy putbacks, Florida State's halfcourt offense was pretty unimpressive. It wasn't good enough to win the game. They made up for it in other areas, of course, but boxing out and more hustling in transition cuts back on this drastically.
This was a tough loss. It was tough to watch Maryland collapse, especially because we've seen them beat high-major teams now. But I'll say now what I've said in every game recap: this is a building year. It was awful to watch, but the team will grow from this. (At least I pray they do, because I can't stand this for another year.) I would've liked to see more fight in the end, but they can look back, identify weaknesses, and rectify them. Maryland never needed to win this game, and good will still come of it.
In fact, if you're still entertaining delusions of grandeur and the NCAA Tournament, it's still possible. Not likely, but the path to 8 wins is still easily attainable. And hey: Maryland lost to FSU by less than UNC did. It's the small victories, people.
(Yes, sarcasm. But I wanted to end on a lighter note.)