Maryland came into Tuesday night’s game against Michigan 15-1 over the past two seasons in games decided by six points or less, the best winning percentage in those situations in Division I.
The Terrapins left Ann Arbor 15-2 after a 70-67 loss to the Wolverines.
Maybe it was a jinx, because I happened to ask head coach Mark Turgeon about that 15-1 mark on Monday before the team team departed for their second road game in four days. But, in hindsight, his response was a bit of foreshadowing and typical of a coach more concerned with what will happen in the future than what has happened in the past during a long season.
“A month from now,” he said, “ask me the same question.”
We had the same conversation last season when one KenPom metric ranked Maryland among the “luckiest” in the nation -- an attempt to quantify the less-controllable factors that happen down the stretch of close games.
But, at the time, there was a counter to that. This team seemed almost built for late-game situations. Turgeon elaborated on Monday.
“I think Melo [Trimble] has a lot to do with it. Free-throw shooting has a lot to do with it,” he said. “I don’t know yet. This year we haven’t had enough.
“We’ve got work to do. I work on half-court, late-game situations every day because I know we’re going to start having them as we move forward. So hopefully we’ll get better.”
Coincidentally enough, Maryland had one of the exact situations down the stretch, down three after a missed free throw. Turgeon did not call a timeout, just as he did not against Wisconsin.
Rasheed Sulaimon got a mismatch on a switch, but his step-back three to tie it from the wing rimmed off.
Turgeon walked through it postgame.
“We had a play called and we got a good look. We really did. You need a three. It’s hard to make a three,” he said. “Got the five-man switched onto him. It hit back rim and looked good from where I was.
“We lost the game way before that. We had some possessions that we came up empty.”
And that is the way life on the road in college basketball goes sometimes.
The star, Trimble, had an off night. The opponent was hot from three-point range. They were an inherent matchup problem. But Maryland will be just fine.