The No. 17 Maryland men's basketball team's recent struggles crescendoed on Sunday with a 71-55 road loss to unranked Big Ten foe Iowa. It was Maryland's worst effort of the season and an ugly performance in myriad ways.
The Hawkeyes blew the Terrapins out of the water from the game's outset, despite a miniature surge in the second half that brought the final score closer to respectability. Melo Trimble scored 20 hard-earned points, and Dez Wells added 12, but Maryland's offense took too long to start humming for the Terps to have a real chance. They scored 17 points in an embarrassing first half and never seriously threatened after starting the game by allowing a 7-0 Iowa run.
Maryland (19-5, 7-4 Big Ten) shot 37 percent from the field overall, though an improvement in garbage time inflated that figure. Iowa (15-8, 6-4) shot a whopping 64 percent.
Maryland's had more than its share of uninspiring starts lately, but Sunday's was the worst of the bunch. The Terps scored two points in the game's first eight minutes, a paltry total that was indicative of their inability to produce even passable looks at the basket. The Terps were completely befuddled by Iowa's zone defense, and whatever decent shots they could muster usually rimmed out or missed that rim altogether. The Terps shot a gruesome 24 percent from the field in the half, in what was one of the worst 20-minute displays of Mark Turgeon's tenure in College Park. Non-Trimble Maryland players scored a total of four points in the half. The Maryland defense was as bad as the offense, letting Iowa shoot 61 percent in the half and running up a 40-17 lead at halftime. By that point, the game was more than over, and Maryland's third-straight nationally televised humiliation in a road game was in full swing.
The ugliness of the scoreline wasn't all, though. Trimble had a physically tumultuous day; he took a falling camera to the face upon falling through the baseline after a first-half foul on a drive, then got poked in the eye by Iowa's serially eye-gouging center, Adam Woodbury. Each time, a replacement foul shooter replaced the generally knock-down Trimble and missed one of two shots. And after Woodbury's poke, officials initially missed the call and let Iowa proceed to drain a transition three-pointer. Even after a video review of Woodbury's flagrant one foul, the Hawkeyes got to keep those points. Maryland's bench was rightfully enraged. Then again, the game was already well out of hand.
Three things we learned
1. It's time to acknowledge that Maryland isn't as good as it looked early. Take that very literally. Maryland is probably a top-40 team if we judge conservatively, and its postseason resume is even better than that. But it was hard to buy the Terps as the second-best team in the Big Ten even before Sunday's utter debacle. Now, it's almost impossible. Iowa is a good but decidedly not great team, and the Hawkeyes thrashed the Terps from start to finish. Maryland was loose with the ball, soft on the boards and offline on shots all afternoon. This is five-consecutive efforts that fall short of "good," and the Terrapins have hardly ever looked worse under Mark Turgeon. It's not at all a guarantee at this stage that Maryland can beat a middling team like Indiana this week at Xfinity Center. Looking further, Maryland's game later this month against Wisconsin – which recently looked like a premier matchup – is a prospective rout.
2. Maryland's offense is trending hard in the wrong direction. If you take a wide sample, Maryland's offense still looks pretty good. The Terps, for the whole season, have the second-highest adjusted offensive efficiency in the Big Ten – 108 points per 100 possessions. That's pretty good, but it's also misleading. Since conference play started, the Terps entered Sunday ranked 10th among 14 conference teams in adjusted efficiency, with 99.6 points per possession. After Pomeroy releases full new data later on, Maryland could fall to as low as 13th in the league. Basically, this all suggests that Maryland's best offensive numbers were built on the backs of non-conference opponents, only a couple of which were power-conference teams. Given Maryland's recent decline in production from beyond the arc and at the foul line, this decline makes sense. The Terps' stats suggest they're a good offensive team. Recent realities suggest they are not.
3. Melo Trimble was all heart. Just about everything that could have gone awry for Maryland did. For Trimble, too, as his face was under constant assault from opposing players' fingers and projectile recording equipment. But after the two worst offensive games of his career, Trimble pushed ahead on Sunday to give Maryland its only positive individual showing of the afternoon. He scored all but four of Maryland's 17 first-half points and was the only Terrapin who didn't look completely out of sorts offensively for most of the afternoon.