After more than a week without gameplay to regroup following its first loss of the season against Penn State, No. 7 Maryland men’s basketball hoped to get back on track against Seton Hall Thursday night.
The contest that was once marked a marquee game on the Terps’ schedule had turned into what should have been an easy win with the Pirates’ two best players out with injury. But instead, Maryland completely faltered offensively and lost its second consecutive game, 52-48.
Here are three things we took away from the loss.
1. The Terps aren’t in the right mindset
One of head coach Mark Turgeon’s biggest sentiments throughout his post-game press conference was that his team wasn’t playing with the confidence it needed.
There wasn’t a specific moment Turgeon could point to where the Terps’ moral fell prior to Thursday’s game, but consistent struggles to shoot the ball —the team is shooting 41.5 percent from the floor and 30.3 percent beyond the arc this season — combined with being handed their first loss certainly contribute.
“That’s us as teammates,” Aaron Wiggins said. “We just got to be smarter, encouraging towards towards each other and make sure that we can’t show negative energy towards a specific shot or something, like just those little things. We got to be more collective as a team when it comes to the shots we take and the confidence that we have in each other.”
But it isn’t just a matter of confidence. Maryland hasn’t played like a hungry team over its last two showings. Down its two best players in Myles Powell and Sandro Mamukelashvili, Seton Hall clearly showed more heart Thursday night.
Both Wiggins and Anthony Cowan Jr. remarked that the Pirates simply played harder than them, that the coaching staff had a clear plan that simply wasn’t being executed.
Turgeon hoped the loss to Penn State would wake up his team to correct its continued offensive errors, but that wasn’t the case. He hopes that after two consecutive defeats, the message will finally sink in.
“We had the ball down three on the road and a chance, so the world’s not coming to an end, but we’re highly disappointed as a coaching staff and as a team [with] the way we played tonight,” Turgeon said. “Sometimes you gotta hit rock bottom. I don’t know if it is rock bottom — we’ll see — but if it is, then maybe we’ll come back and be a little bit better after Christmas.”
2. Seton Hall had a block party
Maryland had the ball swatted away 15 times by Seton Hall in the defeat — the most its been blocked all season. Even though the Terps clearly weren’t having success in the paint throughout the game, ending the night with just 16 points there, they continued to drive into the lane instead of finding an open shot elsewhere.
The Pirates only started one player over 6’6 in 7’2 senior center Romaro Gill, but he was all that was needed to completely shut the Terps down near the basket. He finished the first half with five blocks and ended with six on the night. Also standing at 7’2, Ike Obiagu was dominant inside as well, securing six blocks in just 17 minutes off the bench.
“It affected it a lot,” Turgeon said. “We worked hard this week at trying to score around the basket, and we couldn’t [Thursday]. But more than that, we kept challenging them.
“When Anthony hit a three late in the game, we penetrated three times and pitched, we got a wide open three. And we talked about it two years ago. We talked about it six months ago. We talked about it all week. We talked about it before the game. We talked about it in every timeout. Our decision making just has to get so much better for us.”
Last year, Maryland was able to count on the physicality of Bruno Fernando in the paint on both the offensive and defensive end. Pitching down low can’t be relied on as heavily with his departure to the NBA, as Jalen Smith is still adjusting to the five position and doesn’t have the same ability to finish through coverage, while the Mitchell twins are a work in progress as freshmen.
3. The first half was worst than all the rest
It’s no secret that Maryland has struggled to get started in games so far this season, but Thursday night was by far the slowest start offensively.
The Terps had a mere seven points over 10 minutes into the game, and their tally remained there until under four minutes remained, only barely being kept in it by their defense. They even went on a scoreless stretch for over eight minutes at one point, eventually ending the half down 27-18 — their fewest points scored in a half since Feb. 16, 2019 against then-No. 5 Michigan.
“We gotta realize that it’s not easy to win in college basketball no matter the circumstances,” Cowan said. “Seton Hall was down, two of their starters [were] out — and we just didn’t execute and we just didn’t do what we [were] supposed to do.”