After Maryland basketball lost to Wisconsin on Sunday, the Terps returned home with a fairly breezy four-game stretch to end the season.
It hasn’t turned out that way.
After they kicked things off with an 89-75 loss to Minnesota, Saturday’s 83-69 defeat in Xfinity Center at the hands of Iowa has fans spitting out takes like this:
@testudotimes Turge is getting exposed for the coach he is!!— Jeff (@ravensNterps) February 26, 2017
@testudotimes season over. Might even blow a tournament bid. Melo Trimble most overrated College basketball player of all time.— colin sullivan (@colinsully23) February 26, 2017
@testudotimes this team has quit, the season is over— Michael Goldsmith (@redmikeskins) February 26, 2017
Maryland hasn’t quit. The season isn’t over. But there’s real cause for concern now on a team that looked listless at home against an opponent it beat on the road a month ago. Maryland isn’t shooting well, and with Michal Cekovsky done for the season, the team hasn’t had any production down low.
“Transition defense, rebounding, post defense wasn’t good enough today,” head coach Mark Turgeon told reporters after the loss.
Maryland’s now lost five of its last seven games, and is on its first three-game losing streak since 2012. A team that seemed to have everything going right only a week ago can’t do much correctly right now.
“We didn’t play very well today. We didn’t defend — again,” Turgeon said. “I don’t want to come in here and brag about Iowa like I did Minnesota, but they were terrific. Thought Iowa was great.”
The Hawkeyes certainly played well. Jordan Bohannon’s 24 points came on 8-of-10 shooting beyond the arc, and he dominated outside while Tyler Cook, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds, controlled the paint. Iowa shot 62 percent from three-point range, an eye-popping number.
But this is a team Maryland should beat. The Terps entered the game as 9.5-point favorites, and KenPom’s metrics predicted a 78 percent chance of victory for the home team. That didn’t come close to materializing. Maryland led for all of two minutes of game time, and fans rained boos down on them when the deficit ballooned to 22 late.
Maryland struggled to generate consistent offense from anywhere on the floor. Apart from Trimble’s 27-point outburst against Wisconsin, the Terps have been stagnant offensively in each of their three losses. Without Cekovsky down low, the Terps are helpless if they’re not hitting from deep. And they haven’t been hitting from deep. They’ve only made 29 percent of their threes in the past two games, a funk that’s helped sink them.
“If we’re not making shots, we gotta find another way to score,” center Damonte Dodd said.
Maryland couldn’t do that on Saturday. The team attempted more threes (34) than twos (24), despite only making 32 percent of their three-pointers. The Terps couldn’t penetrate Iowa’s zone, and this resulted in Trimble chucking up threes (he was 1-for-9) when they couldn’t find a better option.
“We prepared for [the zone]. We did great in practice, but we just couldn’t make no shots,” Dodd said. “That’s just how it’s been these last couple games. We just haven’t been making any shots, so we’re probably gonna get zoned again.”
The Terps shouldn’t have to rely on Trimble to be on fire simply to be competitive against a team like Iowa, which has only gone 8-8 in Big Ten play during a down year for the conference. Maryland is a young team that should get the benefit of the doubt in some situations, but this kind of loss is worrisome.
Turgeon’s frustration showed through in the second half. After a foul call, he disposed of his jacket and coached the rest of the half in a shirt and tie. Beyond missing open looks, he didn’t have much of an explanation for the loss.
“It’s hard,” Turgeon said. “You’re trying to push the right buttons and you’re trying to figure it out, but we’ll watch the film and go, ‘You know, those we’re some really good looks.’ We just didn’t make them.”
Maryland is going to make the tournament. But the month of February has the team trending in the wrong direction. The Terps were a 6-seed in ESPN’s projections earlier this week, but the next version should have them lower. The loss dropped the Terps to No. 4 in the Big Ten, meaning they’re just barely hanging on to a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
“We’re still 15 games over .500, and we have a lot to play for,” Turgeon said. “We only got two games left. Some teams go through this late in the year and turn it around. Hopefully we’re one of those teams.”
Maryland still has a shot to be. Maybe the freshmen will benefit from the couple days of rest they’ll get after the regular season ends next Saturday against Michigan State. Maybe Trimble will toss in another heroic effort before he finishes out what could be his final season at Maryland. But based on what’s happened in the past week, all of that is looking less likely.