Maryland men’s basketball came out slow for the second straight game, this time dropping the first Big Ten contest of the season to No. 19 Rutgers.
The Terps lacked good shots and couldn’t seem to find a rhythm as the Scarlet Knights dominated for the full 40 minutes, securing the 74-60 victory in College Park.
Here are our three biggest takeaways from Maryland’s second straight loss.
Maryland is dying by the deep ball
Recently, the Terps have shown no signs of life beyond the arc.
Maryland hit just four of its 20 three-point attempts on Monday, finishing as the fourth consecutive game that the team shot worse than 40% from deep. The Terps entered their game against Rutgers ranked second in the Big Ten in three-point percentage at 40.8%, mainly due to their lights out performances in the first two contest of the season.
“I just have to do a better job day to day just giving the guys confidence,” Turgeon said. “And once they get it and we’re more confident then we’re gonna play better.”
The team’s best shooter from deep thus far hasn’t been guards Eric Ayala or Aaron Wiggins, but instead 6’7 forward Donta Scott. The sophomore has hit three shots from beyond the arc in each of his last two games, bringing his percentage up to 61.5% on the season.
Ayala, on the other hand, hasn’t connected from three in as many games, going 0-for-9 from deep since his last make on Nov. 29 against Mount St. Mary’s. Wiggins has also gone three games this season without hitting a deep ball, checking in at 27.3% through six games.
The Terps have yet to find their true identity early on this season, but a brutal showing from beyond the arc in a winnable game against a conference rival is not a promising sign for things to come for a team that loves to shoot freely.
“No matter if I have a fantastic game and I score this amount of points, or this person scored this amount of points, I just want to win,” Scott said. “And I can stand by the rest of my teammates knowing that they want to do the same.”
The Terps lack of depth was exposed
There have been countless times already this season in which Turgeon has raved about the team’s depth at multiple positions. And though the bench added value on both ends of the floor against non-Power Five competition, those contributions have evaporated over the last two games.
Maryland’s bench accounted for just nine points on Monday night, after accounting for just 16 in the team’s loss to Clemson. The team’s two primary options off the bench have been sophomore guard Hakim Hart and junior forward Jairus Hamilton, two players who showed promise early this season but haven’t produced at the same level recently.
After his 32-point breakout performance, Hart has managed only 10 points over the last two games, while Hamilton’s departure from the starting lineup has seen his perimeter shooting fall off significantly, shooting a combined 1-of-8 from three-point range against Clemson and Rutgers.
Outside of those two, only Reese Mona and Aquan Smart have seen significant playing time off the bench this season, with neither being polished enough offensive players to make the impact the Terps are lacking at the moment.
Maryland’s issues scoring the ball consistently stems from a greater issue than just its bench, but when the starters are struggling to find a rhythm and Turgeon can’t turn to any one player to provide a spark, it certainly can contribute to some of the offensive struggles we’ve seen over the last few games.
“I think just finding a rhythm,” junior guard Eric Ayala said on where the offense needs to improve. “We get in a lot of situations where we end up playing one-on-one ... just trying to find easier shots for people will help us out with our shooting.”
Darryl Morsell is struggling
For the third consecutive game, guard Darryl Morsell has failed to produce much of anything on the floor for the Terps. The senior has just 10 points in those contests, including a scoreless performance in the team’s win over St. Peter’s on Dec. 4.
Morsell opened up the 2020-21 season with three games in double figures, the third longest streak of his four-year tenure with Maryland. This production, followed by the recent skid, has been a result of his high number of attempts from the floor all season.
“He just needs to relax, see a couple go down,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “And I think you’ll see a different Darryl.”
Morsell’s 13 shots on Monday were the most all season, with just three falling for points. The guard is a combined 5-27 in the drought, good for 18.5%. However, Turgeon did note after the game that Morsell had been playing through a shoulder injury, and that it has contributed to some of his shooting struggles.
Pegged as the team’s “glue-guy” and leader, Morsell has never been the go-to scorer for the Terps as a starter in all four seasons. Off the ball, the Baltimore native hasn’t looked like himself, though, lacking in rebounds, assists and defensive statistics in the last three games.
In the team’s first three wins of the season, Morsell played a crucial role as both a scorer and defender. Now, as the senior has taken a step back, the team is struggling as a result, dropping two consecutive games for the first time since March.