Allegany Radio Corporation Sports
On the night the University of Maryland honored the late, great Len Bias, the Maryland Terrapins once more failed to rise to the occasion in delivering an ugly 62-58 loss to Virginia Tech at Xfinity Center in front of a loud, enthusiastic crowd of just under 16,000 dressed in the gold and red No. 34s that the school placed on each seat in the arena for the fans to wear.
The crowd tried its best to help the Terps, now 5-3 and losers of three of their past five games, but head coach Mark Turgeon’s team was unresponsive and not up to the challenge as the program fell for the seventh time in eight outings in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge since joining the Big Ten.
Maryland forward Donta Scott hit a three-point goal 43 seconds into the game to give the Terps a brief lead, but that, remarkably (even for this team), would be the team’s final 3 of the night, as Maryland shot 1 for 13 for the game. The Terps are now shooting 26.8 percent on three-pointers for the season, which ranks 338th out of 350 Division I teams nationally.
The loss is the second in a row for Maryland, and the second in a row to an ACC team, the Terps having lost to Louisville in the Bahamas last weekend. It is also the second home loss for the Terps, who last month fell to George Mason at Xfinity. Now consider, despite Turgeon’s assurances following that loss that George Mason was an outstanding team poised for a big year (“You’ll see.”), the Patriots have lost four in a row since defeating Maryland.
To say these are troubling times this early in the season is not an overstatement, because the mere makeup of this team — compounded by Maryland being unable to shoot the basketball and, once again, being unable to run an offense of any kind – is ominous.
Good things were expected from this team entering the season and Turgeon himself promised Terps fans, “You’re really going to love this team.”
Well, in the immortal words of Judge Elihu Smails, … We’re waiting.
Guards Fatts Russell (Rhode Island) and Ian Martinez (Utah), along with 6-foot-11 center Qudus Wahab (Georgetown) came via the transfer portal to team with Scott and guards Eric Ayala and Hakim Hart, and 6-9 freshman forward Julian Reese came in from Baltimore as the team’s top recruit.
Problem is, what each of the newcomers does best – Russell’s blinding speed, Wahab’s strong post presence and Reese’s versatile baseline game and quickness do not mesh. Meanwhile, it’s not clear what it is that Martinez does yet, while Ayala finds himself in a horrible shooting slump, with Scott and Hart continuing to do what they’ve always done, which is not really clear either.
And all the while, highly-regarded recruits James Graham III and Marcus Dockery sit for 40 minutes each night. Of course, we’ve come to learn Graham won’t be sitting for long, as he announced on Thursday he will soon be moving into the transfer portal.
This is not a good look for a struggling program that can’t seem to find a good look – on or off the court.
Turgeon has always tried to hammer home a half-court offense, which is not going to work with Russell at the point because his speed is being wasted in a set offense and his height (listed at 5-11) works against him when he is able to penetrate.
On top of everything else, Maryland cannot shoot the basketball. On top of everything more, in the 11 seasons Turgeon has been the head coach at Maryland, Lt. Columbo himself has been unable to solve the mystery of just what offense it is that Maryland has been attempting to run (see Hart’s final shot on Wednesday).
It would seem the Terps would be better served to push the ball and run a lot more than they do, particularly with Russell’s speed, which should free Ayala and Scott for better looks and, perhaps, get them off the schneid.
Wahab, though, is not suited for a running offense playing off of the Terps’ once aggressive perimeter defense. He is suited to set up on the blocks and has shown he can be effective in doing so. However, most of the other Terps seem unsuited for this type of game.
Thus, the question begs, what was Turgeon looking for when he put this team together?
While it is true the Maryland fan base has earned its reputation for being an entitled fan base, there seems to be a growing sense that the frustration level with the Terps’ annual shortcomings under Turgeon is indeed a real thing amongst the most prominent Maryland boosters (the bigger-bucks boosters) and, most importantly, the university administration.
Nobody has ever rooted against Mark Turgeon, because to meet Mark Turgeon is to meet a fine gentleman with every good intention for his players and for the University of Maryland.
Eleven years of resume, though, does not lie. This is not a blip on the timeline — Turgeon is clearly doing his best. Yet it feels as though the time is beginning to draw closer when it will be determined if that best is going to be good enough.
Sunday afternoon’s conference home game against Northwestern looms much larger than any Maryland supporter had dreamed it possibly could.
And that’s no bias.
Mike Burke writes about sports and a lot of other stuff for Allegany Radio and Pikewood Digital. 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] and follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT