Allegany Communications Sports

“But Maryland plays good defense,” while accurate, is akin to saying, “Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”

This isn’t a newsflash, but the Maryland men’s basketball Terps cannot score, nor can they help themselves from committing turnovers. Yes, thank goodness they do play good defense.

In fact, Maryland’s defense entered Tuesday night’s home game against a struggling Rutgers team that wasn’t even very good before its struggles began, ranked No. 6 in the country in overall defense. No. 6! In the entire country.

And true to form, the Maryland defense surrendered just 56 points on Tuesday, which was good enough to likely rank them even higher nationally in defensive efficiency.

Trouble is, and we’ve heard this and have said this before, Maryland scored just 53 points in falling to the Scarlet Knights in a Big Ten game that set basketball back to the early days of Naismith, dropping the Terps to 13-10 overall and to 5-7 in the Big Ten to effectively end what little hopes they had of reaching the NCAA Tournament.

Head coach Kevin Willard said in January following a home loss to Purdue, he would guarantee the Terps would be better in February. They are not.

Six days into February and 23 games into a season, you are what you are. Albert King, Buck Williams and Greg Manning aren’t walking through that door.

To the Terps’ credit, they do play great defense, they do rebound and they battle to the end in every game. But they lose most of those games, at least most of the conference games and games against ranked opponents, because they have an undermanned roster (why?) and are somehow incapable of scoring points at anywhere close to a consistent rate.

Having followed and covered college basketball for over 50 years, I’ve never seen a team that has been handcuffed by its inability to score points — even accidentally — the way this Maryland team is. Yet the Terps are a top-10 defense nationally and are not even in the conversation concerning March Madness, and justifiably so.

How can a team run an offense when it is unable to pass out of the post to any shooter? Maryland fans saw that on one of the final Maryland possessions of the game when the Terps had a chance to take the lead, as Julian Reese passed the ball out of the post to highly-rated freshman DeShawn Harris-Smith on the wing, who had an open look at a 3 but wouldn’t take it.

Instead, he hurriedly passed to highly-rated freshman Jamie Kaiser Jr., who didn’t appear to have an idea what to do, so he promptly threw the ball away.

Rutgers plays great defense, too, but Maryland missed 16 of 18 shots from 3-point range, as senior Jahmir Young hit the Terps’ only two 3-pointers (on four attempts), while senior Donta Scott (0 of 5), freshman Kaiser Jr. (0 of 4), senior Jahari Long (0 of 3), and senior Jordan Geronimo (0 of 2) combined to go 0 of 14.

When an opposing player hits a routine jumper from just inside the key or, perhaps, from the elbow (not even a 3-pointer), the Maryland fans says to himself, “I wish we had a guy who could make that shot.”

I am not kidding; and the Maryland fan means make it at all, as it’s as though every basket has risen six inches when Maryland shoots the ball, because they are not just misses, they are bad misses.

Clearly, head coach Willard came up woefully short in constructing this roster. He either overestimated the freshmen he brought to College Park (to the sound of many accolades, let’s not forget) or underestimated the players who left College Park via the transfer portal, or both; because this is not a competent roster. The guys who left were not replaced, and with the transfer portal, that’s just not acceptable.

In fairness, one transfer Willard brought in from Loyola Marymount, sophomore Chance Stephens, who is nicknamed “Sniper” for his 3-point shooting proficiency, was injured last June and had to undergo knee surgery, yet it was still on the Terps to have more, as very few of their bench players even play.

How many times this season have the Terps had just five players score in a game? A handful, maybe? What difference does it make? At a school like Maryland, it’s not supposed to happen at all. Yet this season, it’s happened more than once.

After the loss to Rutgers, Willard was asked to compare and contrast his team’s excellent defense with his team’s woeful offense and, understandably, all he had was “frustrating.”

Given the activity that is likely to take place with the transfer portal in College Park once this season is over, Kevin Willard and his staff had better be ready to work off this frustration, because there is going to be an awful lot of work for them to do.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT