It's hard to argue with being in balmy Puerto Rico on a November day, but here is what Maryland encountered after busing from its beachfront hotel and casino to the coliseum: a loaded, hungry Alabama team that dominated the boards in a 62-42 rout of the inexperienced, poor-shooting Terps.
It may have been 85 degrees in San Juan, but Maryland guards -- pressed full court early by the 16th-ranked Crimson Tide -- were icy cold in the first of three Terps game at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
"Their size and length and speed really gave us fits," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "With that said, we missed a lot of wide-open shots that we normally make and kind of got our heads down."
It wasn't just the missed shots that frustrated the new coach, it was the passing -- or rather the lack of it.
"I think we're way too selfish to be any good offensively," he said.
After shooting 0-for-9 on 3-pointers in its season-opening win over North Carolina-Wilmington, Maryland needed to shoot better from outside to challenge an aggressive Alabama defense that was one of the nation's best last season.
But Maryland guards didn't make a field goal until Sean Mosley beat the halftime buzzer with the Terps' first 3-pointer of the season, cutting Alabama's lead to 36-20.
Maryland's starting backcourt -- Mosley, Terrell Stoglin and Nick Faust -- had shot a combined 1-for-13 by that point, finishing 2-for-23.
As Alabama stretched its lead to 44-24 midway through the second half, Maryland was shooting 6-for-36 (16.7 percent). Stoglin, Maryland's leading returning scorer, never made a field goal (0-for-9) but had six free throws.
Alabama was an NIT finalist and still seems motivated by not making the NCAA tournament after winning the SEC West last season and going 19-0 at home. The Crimson Tide returned three preseason all-SEC starters, including forward Tony Mitchell, who led all scorers with 17 points.
"We're basically a new team. We're a young team," said Maryland forward Ashton Pankey (four points, team-leading 10 rebounds). "They're a veteran team."
Turgeon had said he was focused mostly on seeing his team improve, particularly in rebounding and transition defense. But the ultra-competitive coach acknowledged it would be hard to stomach three straight losses -- a Puerto Rico "0-fer."
Alabama hurt the Terps on the boards, collecting 47 rebounds to Maryland's 29.
Turgeon spent portions of the game shouting to his team or on one knee offering instructions to bench players. He seemed to be teaching -- just like in practice.
"We had a couple guys not run back on defense that really pissed me off," Turgeon said. "You just keep teaching. That's all you can do. But the message is not getting through offensively."
Pankey said the Terps didn't "spread the ball around. It was a lot of quick shots."
Said Mitchell, who also led Alabama in rebounding with 11: "We have to get opponents out of their comfort zone and we did that."Maryland next plays the winner of the late game between Colorado -- which is coached by Tad Boyle, Turgeon's friend and former Kansas teammate -- or Wichita State. Turgeon is a former Wichita State coach.
Maryland never seemed to be in contention as Alabama raced to leads of 14-3 and 24-7 behind Mitchell.
The game was played in front of a sparse crowd at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico. Gold-clad Maryland fans outnumbered those from Alabama. At least the Maryland fans got to enjoy a rendition of "Maryland, My Maryland" played by a local band at the coliseum that was trying to make the visitors feel at home.
email@example.com/sunjeffbarkerCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun