COLLEGE PARK, Md. — While I don’t think University of Maryland guard Terrell Stoglin has ever uttered the exact words before, they sounded particularly familiar.
“We came short again from getting that signature win.”
If Stoglin has never uttered some a combination of words before, I know for sure that I have. I’d be willing to guess that Terrapins fans throughout the Baltimore and Washington areas and across the country have said either the exact combination of words or at least something remarkably similar.
Maryland was predictably “almost there” in their 83-74 loss to the University of North Carolina Saturday at Comcast Center. The Terps (13-9, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) had a second half lead and never appeared to be out of it, but couldn’t muster up enough to knock off the #5 Tar Heels (20-3, 7-1 ACC) and give head coach Mark Turgeon his first marquee victory since replacing the legendary Gary Williams.
One of the culprits this time was offensive rebounds, as 19 second chances (on 39 missed field goals) became 18 second chance points for UNC. On the other side, Maryland had just 13 second chance opportunities (on 36 missed field goals) and converted those into just 12 second chance points.
“I know I’m going to watch the tape and probably be disappointed in our effort on the glass, (which) is something I’m on these guys about” Turgeon said after the loss. “I’ve never had more trouble getting a team to be more physical on box outs. We’ve worked on it, we talk about it, we work on it every day.”
Another culprit was Maryland’s inability to turn turnovers into points, as 14 Carolina turnovers resulted in just 11 Maryland points while 13 Maryland turnovers lead to 18 Carolina points.
As I feel like I’ve said before, they were very close to beating a quality opponent. They just weren’t quite good enough. Even Turgeon suggested in his body language (and a few uncharacteristic short answers) that this close call was a bit more frustrating than some of the other near-misses they’ve had against good teams this season.
It feels like a broken record. Much like in losses to Duke, Florida State, Tempe and Illinois earlier in the season; the Terrapins were in no ways blown off the floor by a superior opponent. They played at times exactly the way they needed to play in order to win games, but they just managed to let it slip away during a stretch where they got away from what makes them good.
“(We) had a stretch in the second half where we couldn’t get into anything” Turgeon said. “(Guard) Pe’Shon (Howard) was on the bench. (We) just didn’t look like we could get into anything, and when (North Carolina C/F Tyler) Zeller was out I thought we could’ve made a run.”
This is exactly the scenario that allowed what was once a 48-39 Maryland lead in the second to become a 50-50 tie in less than five minutes of game play.
Maryland is a good team. Well, they’re at least an improving team. They’re certainly better than the team that was blown out by both Alabama and Iona in the 5-hour Energy Puerto Rico Tip-Off in November. They’re just not going to be good enough to make any sort of imprint before the end of the season.
They’re not going to get into the NCAA Tournament, but we already knew that. They’re probably not going to make much of a charge in the ACC Tournament. They’re likely to find themselves on the outside looking in at even the NIT. They still have four games left against ranked teams (home and home against Virginia, games at Duke and North Carolina); but it is still hard to imagine this team improving enough to do more than perhaps steal one of two against the Cavaliers, and that’s honestly a best case scenario.
It will be tough for this team to show marked progress before the end of Turgeon’s first season, but it doesn’t make Maryland basketball a hopeless cause.
In fact, Turgeon probably said it best again after the loss.
“Obviously we’d like to win a couple more. We went to the wire the other night (in a 2OT loss to Miami), great comeback, great effort, really proud of our guys but we lost. Today we competed against the #5/#6 team in the country, great home crowd, lot of fun. I don’t look at 3-5. I really don’t. I’m going to look at the film and see how I can make them better.”
He then wrapped with this.
“You know what I need to do tonight to make myself feel better is pop in the Radford tape (the last game the team played before C Alex Len returned from suspension) and then pop in this tape to see how much better we’ve gotten in a little over a month. The kids are growing up, our preparation is better. We’re just not there yet.”