Maryland men’s basketball had its worst performance of the season by far Wednesday night as it faced its toughest competition yet in Clemson as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Here are my three biggest takeaways from the Terps’ 67-51 defeat.
Maryland’s offense was nowhere to be found in the first half
Entering Wednesday’s contest, the Terps’ offense ranked first in the nation in effective field goal percentage, third in two-point percentage and 23rd in three-point percentage, per KenPom. They had also averaged 84 points per game on a 56% clip from the floor and 42.5% from deep. But Maryland looked like a completely different team against Clemson.
“I credit Clemson, the way they played defense. They denied passing lanes, made it real tough to score. I think that’s what we struggled with,” Darryl Morsell said. “This is the first team we played this year that denied all the passes and stuff like that. I think that contributed to us not getting off to a great start for real, to be honest.”
Maryland started the contest shooting 2-of-11 from the floor and was down 13-4 a little more than eight minutes into this one. And by the under-12 timeout in the first half, head coach Mark Turgeon’s squad had scored a mere 10 points.
At the halftime break, the Terps were in a 38-15 hole, marking just the fourth time over the last decade that the team has scored 17 points or less in the opening period. During that stretch, they shot 26.1% from the floor and 12.5% from deep, with just one make behind the arc.
“We weren’t ready to play,” Turgeon said. “We were out of it, had a lot of guys not play well. We missed layups early, we missed free throws early and turned the ball over and we were selfish about as any one of my teams has ever played.”
Throughout the game, Maryland struggled in areas it usually excels, which slowed down the offense as well; the team only had six second-chance points and two fast break points.
The Terps managed to find a bit more of a rhythm in the second half, going 14-for-27 from the floor and 5-of-10 from deep. But still, they only put up 36 points in the final period. Maryland shot 20-of-50 (40%) on field goal attempts and 6-for-18 (33%) on three-pointers on the night.
The Terps couldn’t control the ball
As noted, this contest quickly got out of hand early for Maryland, with turnovers playing a large role in addition to the dismal shooting performance.
The Terps lost control of the ball five times in the first eight minutes Wednesday night as they dug themselves in a deep deficit, ending the first half with 10 turnovers.
“I think we kind of just were scattered, trying to figure something out,” Ayala said. “The way we played tonight is just not how we practice and not unacceptable.”
The turnovers happened at crucial points too, stopping the Terps from capitalizing on easy opportunities to score.
With around five minutes left in the contest and the Terps down 58-41, Donta Scott came up with a huge block down low to get his team started on a fast break. Aaron Wiggins took the ball to the other end of the court, drove into the paint and then passed out to an open Hakim Hart on the wing.
The sophomore missed the triple, but Jairus Hamilton pulled down the offensive rebound, appearing to give Maryland another shot at a score. Instead, he errantly threw the ball into the paint, completely missing Hart, who once again had some space. Clemson quickly got to work off the turnover, with guard Nick Honor draining an easy triple.
Maryland gets the stop, however, it can't capitalize on the fast break, turns the ball over and allows a Clemson triple.— Lila Bromberg (@lilabbromberg) December 9, 2020
The Terps have a mere two fast break points, unable to make good on easy chances throughout this one. pic.twitter.com/r8iWgLYd7U
Maryland managed to clean things up a bit in the second half, only committing five turnovers, but its all-around struggles meant that didn’t make much of a difference. The damage had already been done.
Donta Scott was one of the only bright spots
With around eight minutes until halftime, the Terps still hadn’t hit a single shot from deep and were already down 25-10 to the Tigers. After getting caught in a double-team trap by two Clemson defenders at the top of the arc, Wiggins passed the ball a short ways to Scott, who drained a three-pointer.
The triple was Scott’s only make of the half on three attempts from the floor, but he came alive in the second half, scoring eight points on 3-of-4 shooting, including 2-of-2 from deep, in just over three minutes.
He finished with 11 points on the night on 4-of-7 shooting and a 3-of-4 clip from deep. The Philadelphia native was also a staple on the defensive side of the ball, securing six rebounds throughout the contest, along with three blocks — all of which came in the second half — and a steal.
Donta Scott nails a triple for the second-chance score.— Lila Bromberg (@lilabbromberg) December 9, 2020
The sophomore has been perhaps the only bright spot for Maryland. He has 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting from the floor, along with 6 rebounds, a block & a steal. The rest of the team has 18 combined points. pic.twitter.com/0Sq0imkE96
However, those numbers aren’t necessarily what they seem at face value. Despite his hot start after the break, Scott didn’t manage a single shot for nearly the final 13 minutes of the contest.
Following the defeat, Turgeon didn’t give much of an explanation when asked why the sophomore didn’t get more looks, with seemingly no plays drawn up for him.
“You can chalk that up to me,” Turgeon said. “But we were playing funny lineups. We were just trying to get through tonight. We were so bad. And we were competing and we were just trying to get guys on the floor. I thought Donta played with a lot more toughness in the second half. I think he got a little tired there. He had played a lot of minutes.”
Scott did sit out for two periods following that point in the game, including a little over two minutes after his last shot attempt and for three and a half minutes shortly after he was subbed back in, but there wasn’t much clarity as to why plays weren’t drawn up for him for the seven minutes or so he was on the floor during that stretch.
Maryland shortened the deficit to as little as 12 points in the half, and though a full comeback seemed unlikely, having Scott as the center of the offense would have certainly given the team a better chance.