In the first game since Mark Turgeon and Maryland agreed to part ways, Maryland fell to Northwestern, 67-61, in a Sunday matinee in College Park.
Even without Turgeon, many of the Terps' problems persisted. Maryland continued to struggle with scoring and shooting the ball. They shot just 29% from the field and the two stars, Eric Ayala and Donta Scott combined for 19 points on 4-23 shooting.
Let’s get to the takeaways.
It was the start of a new era in College Park
For over 10 years, the same man exuded passion and energy while he roamed the sideline in the Xfinity Center. He threw his arms up when he disagreed with a referee's call and emphatically pumped his fist when his team did something he was happy with.
He appreciated the passion fans had for Maryland basketball, even when they didn’t appreciate him back. As Turgeon walked off the floor in his last ever game as the head coach of Maryland last Wednesday in a loss to Virginia Tech, he was heckled.
Fans booed him and screamed at him to be fired. Only Turgeon himself knows whether he had any idea that would be the last time he ever coached a game for Maryland, but it was.
That passion, energy and investment weren't enough to keep him around any longer. For the first time in over ten years, Turgeon was not the face on Maryland’s sideline on Sunday as he and Maryland agreed to part ways on Friday.
Danny Manning was named the interim head coach for the rest of the season before they name a permanent head coach moving forward after the season concludes.
Sunday's loss against Northwestern was the beginning of a new era for Maryland fans.
It won’t be easy for this team to regroup and go on a run with the disappointment of the season thus far and a shocking coaching change, but they will have to find a way to make a push toward an NCAA Tournament berth, even with the unprecedented situation the team is in.
“That was one of the last things he said to me,” Manning said about Turgeon. “Yeah, we’re close. We got to fine tune some areas and then we can string together some games.”
Hakim Hart had another breakthrough game but didn't get much help
The potential has always been there for Hakim Hart, who has shown flashes of his scoring ability in his third season at Maryland. Inconsistent play and streaky shooting has limited Hart’s success to a degree. However, heading into this season, Hart looked noticeably taller and gained a significant amount of muscle mass that has allowed him to become a lockdown perimeter defender.
His offense has looked improved at times, but a lack of aggression and poor shooting numbers followed him early on in the season. Hart’s breakthrough junior season game came in a comeback win over Richmond on Thanksgiving where he went off for 24 points on 8-for-9 shooting.
Hart had been somewhat quiet since then but the potential for a lights-out shooting performance is there every time he steps on the floor. In the open of Big Ten play against Northwestern on Sunday, Hart started off the game on fire. He had 11 points and was 3-for-4 from three in the first half.
He finished the game with 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting.
Maryland is a completely different team offensively when Hart is scoring at a high level. He was labeled the X-factor heading into this season by many people on the outside, and it may be true. If Hart is playing well, this team is much better off, and if he isn't, they are going to struggle like they have much of this season.
Even if Hart is knocking down shots, he is going to need help from the other guards on this team if they want to start clicking and take this offense to heights it is capable of climbing.
Ayala has been on a cold streak in recent games and struggled once again on Sunday. He shot 16% from the floor on 12 attempts. His backcourt partner Fatts Russell has also had a difficult time scoring. On Sunday, he was 3-of-12 from the field, although he did knock down two threes on three attempts.
“We’re still all new,” Ayala said. “It’s a new environment, you know, we’re getting better though. We’re definitely close, it’s right there.”
Danny Manning went deep into his bench, but the offense was more of the same
One of the strengths on Maryland’s roster coming into this season was presumably the depth it had. Turgeon had his rotation slimmed down to eight, with offensive contributions coming sparingly from the guys off the bench.
Guard Ian Martinez, one of the top guys off the bench, went down early into his shift on Sunday. As he was driving to the basket, he fell and hit his head on a Northwestern defender's leg. He would not return the rest of the game and is being evaluated for a head injury, per a team spokesman.
A total of 10 guys took the floor in the first half, including guard Marcus Dockery, who had not played since the first game of the season. Dockery knocked down a jumper in the first half.
“The thought process was to go into the game and give him some minutes,” Manning said about Dockery.
Turgeon was pretty set on his top eight before Big Ten play even began. It’s possible Manning will want to give different guys a chance to prove themself as the season continues.
Maryland also only plays one game in the next three weeks, so with a long break and a ton of practice time, players who aren't in the rotation might have another chance to prove themselves to Manning.
Despite giving other guys an opportunity, Maryland’s offense proved to be lackluster once again. Maryland shot just 29% from the field. Although their three-point shooting was improved as the Terps made 43% of their attempts, that number was inflated because of Hart’s terrific shooting night, knocking down 4-of-6. Inside the arc, Maryland connected on 7-of-36 two-point attempts.
“I’m a big believer in paint touches. I’m a big believer in ball reversals,” Manning said.
Maryland has yet to find its offensive identity. These offensive performances are no longer a disappointment, they’re simply the reality for this team right now.