Through the first two weeks of the college basketball season, Maryland was cruising on the basketball court. Sure, off the floor there was a myriad of cancelations and minor injuries that caused them some concern, but once they stepped on the court, the team seemed to pick up from where they left off last year.
A quick trip to Clemson, South Carolina for the ACC/ Big Ten Challenge was an unwelcome reality check.
The Tigers rolled over the Terrapins from the opening tip, delivering a massive blow as Maryland readies for conference play with a 67-51 loss. It was a completely different look than what was seen in their first four contests, where the average margin of victory was 24 points, albeit against inferior competition.
“We weren’t ready to play, we were out of it,” head coach Mark Turgeon said postgame. “We were about as selfish as any one of my teams ever played, so we have a lot of work to do.”
Not much can be said about the overall performance of the Terrapins. An abysmal, 15-point first half put the Terps in a massive hole. Maryland went 6-for-23 from the floor and 1-for-8 from behind the arc in the first 20 minutes. Throw in 10 turnovers and it was surprising that it was as close as it was.
No matter how many runs Maryland made in the second half, Clemson responded. Donta Scott, who was the only Maryland player to reach double figures with 11 points, sparked a 17-8 run to start the half. Mini bursts got them as close as 12 but never closer.
“We weren’t moving the ball, we weren’t moving our bodies. We were just standing watching the guy dribble,” Turgeon said. “We had a lot of guys not play up to their abilities. We didn’t look like we were doing the things we were supposed to do.”
In total Maryland shot 40% from the field and 33% from 3-point range, by far the lowest outing of the year. Had it not been for an efficient second-half to balance things, those figures should be worse.
Those poor shooting numbers were bound to happen after the offensive output from the opening two weeks. Maryland entered the game with the eighth-best field goal percentage in all of Division I. Their lowest scoring night was when they dropped 79 points to Mount St. Mary’s.
Without the length of Jalen Smith from last season, there are going to be times where the Terps will have to rely on their 3-point game. That is going to lead to nights like this when shots aren’t falling. The offense primarily runs with five players all initiating play from behind the arc. Power 5 teams, like Clemson, have the athleticism to force contested shots and limit cuts into the lane.
“Credit Clemson for the way they played defense,” senior Darryl Morsell said. “They’re just the first team we ever played this year that denied all the passes and stuff like that.”
Granted this was Maryland’s first road contest of the year. Not once had the Terrapins left College Park because their game against James Madison was canceled. It was also their first experience with fans in the building.
Most importantly, though, it was also their first game of any true consequence thus far into the COVID-19 season. There were some solid mid-majors on the schedule but every game up until this one had to be a victory. This was a step up in competition, similar to what they’ll see in the Big Ten.
More performances like this in conference and they won’t make it very far this year.
“I think this will resemble how our competition will be in the Big Ten. The Big Ten is one of the best conferences in the country and you know we're going to have to bring it night-in and night-out,” Eric Ayala said. “So, I would say I'm kind of glad we got to experience something like this early on so we can learn from it. We ready to approach practice differently than we have.”