It seemed like Maryland men’s basketball head coach Mark Turgeon could only watch and pray as Iowa ran past his Terrapins Jan. 7 in College Park, Md. After taking an early lead against the No. 5-ranked Hawkeyes, Maryland unraveled in a flash. Every offensive possession seemed to end in a brick or a turnover. Every defensive possession seemed to end in an easy basket. Before anyone in the arena could blink, the game was out of hand.
The Terps’ 89-67 loss to Iowa dropped them to 1-5 in Big Ten play and 6-6 overall. It marked Maryland’s third consecutive defeat after pulling off an upset early last week. And this one wasn’t even close.
Each of Maryland’s losses has hinged on one bad stretch. Against Michigan and Indiana, the Terps had a chance to win before falling apart late. In this contest, though, the damage was done at the end of the first half. Maryland raced out to a 19-9 lead, then Iowa scored the game’s next 20 points during 8:47 of game time. The run reached 30-5 and then 35-7 by the end of the half, and the Hawkeyes took a 44-26 lead into the locker room. Maryland never got within 12 points again.
“It was tough,” Turgeon said. “I didn’t like the way we finished the first half. I thought there was times in the second half we really played well, but we gotta learn how to compete a little bit more and not worry about missed shots.”
It was a familiar story on both ends of the floor. The Terps’ streaky offense started hot and then went freezing cold. They started 8-of-12 from the field and then proceeded to miss 11 straight field-goal attempts. Maryland struggled to find answers after Iowa switched to a zone defense — when it wasn’t settling for outside jumpers, it was trying and failing to penetrate the zone and ultimately turning the ball over. The team had 10 first-half turnovers and committed 16 in the game.
And on defense, the Terps’ lack of size proved once again to be a fatal flaw. In a conference full of star big men, Iowa center Luka Garza stands out; he’s the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and expected to capture national individual awards this season. Garza manhandled whoever Maryland threw at him — he had 17 points and five rebounds at halftime and finished with 24 and seven before sitting out the final 6:17. As a team, Iowa shot 53.7 percent from the field and 50 percent on 3-pointers.
“We tried to throw a couple defensive schemes at them, but they’re a great team, they move the ball well, they were able to score,” junior wing Aaron Wiggins said. “And we just weren’t tough enough. We weren’t mentally locked in enough to fight, to contain some of the things that they had.”
Wiggins was a bright spot for Maryland, as he shot 7-of-14 and tallied 17 points, five rebounds and five assists. Three other Terps — Donta Scott, Eric Ayala and Hakim Hart — snuck into double figures. And freshman guard Marcus Dockery, who had scored just four points all season, went 3-of-3 for eight points in nine minutes off the bench. But the first-half numbers — 11-of-28 from the field, 4-of-16 from deep — simply put Maryland in too much of a hole. And it’s worth noting that the Terps didn’t attempt a free throw until 6:13 remained in the game (they finished 3-of-6).
Maryland is now 1-5 in conference play for the first time since 1992-93, a year in which the Terps ultimately finished 2-14 in the ACC. This team has mostly fallen victim to a frontloaded Big Ten schedule — three of the five losses are to ranked foes and the other two are against top-35 KenPom teams on the road — but that doesn’t make the record sting any less.
The Terps visit No. 12 Illinois on Sunday, Jan. 10, needing an upset to avoid falling to 1-6 in league play. After hosting Nebraska Jan. 16, Maryland has two more tough road games against No. 10 Michigan and No. 16 Minnesota. While the schedule lightens up from there, it’s possible the damage will already be done. And if the season goes far enough south, fans’ frustration with Turgeon could reach a boiling point — he’s probably not on the hot seat yet, but these things can change quickly.
The Terps, of course, aren’t thinking about that yet. They’re still focused on righting the ship and trying to make a run at a postseason spot (which is far from off the table, even at 1-5 in the league). Turgeon knows his team is flawed, especially in the frontcourt, and Maryland has to be creative to overcome its weaknesses. Iowa was far too much to overcome on this night, though, and it’s back to the drawing board.
“We’re not staying status quo. We’re trying to figure it out,” Turgeon said. “And I think that some of the steps that we’re making are gonna help us down the road, but right now it’s just getting the guys to play with a little bit more confidence and getting the guys to compete a little bit more throughout the game.
“We were doing that. We were playing really hard. … I’ve been really proud of this team, how hard they’ve competed, and tonight it wasn’t there for us.”
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox