COLLEGE PARK, Md. — After a devastating second-half collapse against Villanova last Saturday, the Terps desperately needed to make a statement to build their confidence, their ACC stature, and their push for the NCAA tournament.
If an embarrassing 74-57 defeat to Virginia Tech is their best proclamation, the Terps need to take a long look at themselves after their largest margin of defeat in the nine-year history of the Comcast Center.
The Hokies (12-5, 3-2 ACC) sprinted out to a 12-0 lead as the Terps (11-7, 1-3 ACC) failed to score before the first media timeout, throwing up wild shots and making poor decisions as they didn’t know what hit them.
It didn’t get any better after that.
Virginia Tech guards Erick Green (24) and Malcolm Delaney (19) combined for 43 points to overwhelm the Terps’ backcourt. The Hokies shredded the Terps with 42 of their 74 points coming in the paint.
The Hokies’ zone defense collapsed the lane — holding Jordan Williams to just two points in the first half and 11 for the game — as Maryland’s guards failed to knock down perimeter shots.
Maryland’s starters combined for just eight points in the first half.
And aside from a two-minute, 11-point run by Cliff Tucker in the second half that got the Terps as close as eight points down with 7:15 to play, the score was never really an indication of how lopsided of an affair it truly was.
It was an absolute shellacking.
“After a game like that, you wonder where that [effort] comes from compared to the efforts of last week,” coach Gary Williams said. “Playing three games in six days and the effort we made tonight was another thing.”
A common theme surrounding Maryland this season has been the need to play 40 minutes of good basketball after a number of close losses to good teams. Urgency had every reason to be present for the Terps, who were returning to their home floor after a three-game road trip with an opportunity to even their conference record against the Hokies and put last week’s competitive, but disappointing, losses to Duke and Villanova in the rear-view mirror.
Instead, Maryland turned in its most disappointing performance of the season.
Williams shuffled his starting backcourt again Thursday night, this time sending Tucker and freshman Pe’Shon Howard to the floor against the longer Hokies (Terrell Stoglin was benched for arriving late to a team meeting, according to the Maryland coach).
But just like every other backcourt combination sent to the floor this season, the situation continues to be lukewarm on even the best nights, with more teams figuring out Jordan Williams is the only Maryland player who can consistently hurt you. Williams is facing more and more zones collapsing the lane and denying him the basketball.
The sophomore forward had to fight to earn his 12th straight double-double (11 points and 11 rebounds) in the losing effort, matching Len Elmore’s school record set in 1973-74. However, as Gary Williams pointed out in his post-game comments, his pedestrian numbers begged for a teammate or two to emerge offensively, but the Terps received no such contribution short of Tucker’s brief second-half outburst and a modest 10-point performance by Bowie, who kept the team somewhat afloat in the first half.
“They played a packed-in zone, and they gave our guards a tough game,” said Williams, who recorded his 16th double-double of the season against the Hokies. “I found myself forcing some shots because I didn’t get that many touches, so when I did get the ball, I tried to be effective with it and I took some dumb shots.”
Luckily for the Terps, they won’t have long to think about this one as they turn around quickly to host the Clemson Tigers on Saturday afternoon, another beatable opponent on paper — just like the Hokies were supposed to be.
“I think it can be a good thing,” Tucker said. “We don’t have time to sit and mope around. We have to come in [to Friday’s practice] and forget about this and focus on Clemson. We have to have a sense of urgency about us.”
Urgency, indeed. The same urgency they should have had against the Hokies.
The Terps keep digging a hole for their postseason hopes deeper and deeper.
In a mediocre ACC, there’s still time to turn things around, but that climb grows more difficult with each game.
After Thursday night’s clunker against the Hokies, you have to wonder whether Maryland is really equipped to do it.
As close as many of us thought the Terps were to figuring it out in a gutsy performance 11 days ago at Cameron Indoor Stadium, they took several steps backward Thursday night.