COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Two months ago, Maryland basketball coach Mark Turgeon thought he had a team capable of reaching the NCAA tournament.
Now, after two straight lopsided defeats, Turgeon doesn’t know what to make of this underachieving squad.
Coming off a 16-point rout of Georgia Tech, the Terrapins (10-7, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) lost to Pittsburgh by 20 points and to Florida State by 24. It’s been that kind of season for Maryland, which won the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands but also lost at home to Oregon State and Boston University.
This is the Terrapins’ final season in the ACC, and they intend to make it memorable. To do so they must play hard and with some consistency, objectives they hope to accomplish Wednesday night at home against Notre Dame (10-6, 1-2).
“I expect us to better, but I’m not going to sit here and say we’re going to do this or do that because I don’t know,” Turgeon said after Tuesday’s practice. “If I knew, I’d sleep better at night.”
If there was only one shortcoming to correct, Turgeon and his players could focus on fixing the problem. Unfortunately, there’s no clear starting point.
“We’ve obviously got to make some shots, try and rebound and play some defense,” forward Evan Smotrycz said.
That about covers it.
“Guys need to play the way they’re supposed to play and play with confidence and do it as a team,” Turgeon said.
One reason for the slow start is the broken foot sustained by point guard Seth Allen, who made his season debut on Dec. 29. The Terrapins are trying to get accustomed to having Allen distribute the ball, and he’s still working his way back to form.
“Guys have been inconsistent, but we’ve also had the injury,” Turgeon said. “We’re trying to blend Seth in. We’re trying to figure it out. It’s frustrating, but when it comes, it’s going to come and we’ll start playing at a high level.”
Guard Nick Faust is convinced that improvement must come immediately, calling the Notre Dame game ” a must-win” situation.
“We have to win this one. It would be big for us and get us over that hump,” Faust said. “We really need this win.”
Faust remains certain that this team is capable of qualifying for its first NCAA tournament appearance since Turgeon took over in 2011.
“We just have to bring it every game,” he said. “As a team, we just have got to lock in and stay focused on both ends of the floor.”
Especially on offense. The Terps shot 36 percent in a 79-59 loss to Pittsburgh and went 17 for 51 (33 percent) in an 85-61 defeat at Florida State.
“We’ve got to start being consistent in the shots we take,” forward Jake Layman said. “Some games we’re shooting in five seconds and some games we look like the best team in the country when we’re moving the ball. We know what we need to work on.”
Turgeon was encouraged by the team’s attitude on Tuesday, and can only hope it translates to success against a Notre Dame team that is almost as inconsistent as Maryland. The Irish defeated Duke on Jan. 4, then lost to North Carolina State and Georgia Tech.
“You just move forward and try to get better,” Turgeon said. “I saw a mature team today, so hopefully I’ll see a mature team (Wednesday) night.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)