COLLEGE PARK — Maryland erased a 12-point deficit in the last 12 minutes and had its chances against No. 4 Syracuse Monday night at Comcast Center. What the Terps haven't done much of the season — hit big shots — they couldn't do against the Orange.
A missed free throw by sophomore forward Jake Layman prevented Maryland from tying the game with 47.7 seconds left, junior guard Nick Faust (City) was blocked on a subsequent drive and sophomore guard Seth Allen missed an off-balance 20-footer at the buzzer that could have won the game.
Instead of the Terps getting a signature win, Syracuse broke a two-game losing streak — its first two losses of the season — beating the Terps, 57-55, before a disappointed sellout crowd of 17,950. Allen led Maryland (15-13, 7-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) with 22 points, while junior guard Dez Wells added 15, all but two in the second half.
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Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis finished with 20 points for Syracuse, while senior forward C.J. Fair (City) added 17.
“We had a great crowd, we didn't give them a lot to cheer about for 35 minutes, they stuck with us,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “I thought they [the crowd] were tremendous down the stretch. They gave us a chance to win the game, their energy in the building was great.”
Unfortunately for Turgeon, his team was not. Maryland tied a season high with 18 turnovers that led to 26 points, shot just 14-of-40 from the field and couldn't make enough plays. Some of it was Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone, but a lot of it was the impatience and ineptitude of the young Terps.
Turgeon also blamed himself.
“We just weren't very good against the zone, to be quite honest with you, and I'll take the blame, I don't know why,” Turgeon said. “I felt good about our game plan. I've seen it work against them. We just turned it over too much. .…We were right there.”
Said Wells: “They made a lot of tough shots, we missed a lot of easy shots. Turnovers had us down. But at the end of the day, we still had a chance with 18 turnovers. Certain opportunities we get that we have to take advantage of. … I should have made better decisions down the stretch. I felt that really cost us the game.”
After Layman made the second of two free throws to cut Syracuse's deficit to 56-55, Fair kept the door open by missing from the right baseline. Wells grabbed the rebound, got out on the break and found Faust, who drove the baseline.
But Faust's layup attempt was swatted by Syracuse's Baye Moussa Keita.
“I thought Nick was fouled,” Turgeon said, clearly frustrated with not getting many calls in Maryland's not-so-pleasant last season in the ACC. “I think the replay showed that. It's been that kind of year for us. They didn't call it, and they win the game.”
Told of Turgeon's assessment of the play, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said, “They shot 27 free throws [and made 19, to just 3 of 6 for the Orange]. If anybody is going to complain, I'm going to complain. And I think I did enough of that Saturday.”
Boeheim was referring to being thrown out of Syracuse's loss at Duke with 11 seconds to go after Fair's basket and possible three-point play that would have given the Orange a one-point lead was called off by an offensive foul. Boeheim's expletive-filled on-court tirade led to the first ejection from a regular-season game in his Hall of Fame career.
If the Orange were angry, it didn't show, as Fair and Ennis helped Syracuse get off to a fast start and, after the Terps had cut a nine-point lead (26-17) to four late in the first half, a 3-point shot by Ennis at the halftime buzzer sent Maryland to its locker room down by eight.
After Wells' first two baskets of the game kept Maryland within six, 34-28, Ennis led the Orange on an 8-2 run to open up a 42-30 lead with 11:46 left. Still trailing by 12 with a little over 10 minutes left, the Terps suddenly made it a game and had Syracuse teetering with Fair in foul trouble and forward Jerami Grant playing just 13 minutes because of a back injury.
Turgeon knew that his team could have won after Trevor Cooney missed one of two free throws to set up Allen's potential game-winner. Getting the ball 85 feet from the basket, Allen weaved up the court but didn't set his feet before shooting. .
“The disappointing thing is Syracuse was ripe to be beaten,” Turgeon said. “They just had a big emotional game Saturday [losing at Duke] and Grant got hurt. It was right there for us, and we just couldn't get it going.”
With the exception of Allen, who hit four of five 3-point shots in the first half to keep Maryland and six of nine for the game, few Terps played well for most of the game and some played horribly. Wells had another offensive no-show in the first half. Evan Smotrycz fouled out with 6:05 to go, having scored just three points.
Faust, who had scored a career-high 20 points in Tuesday's win over Wake Forest, finished with just five points, missing all six shots he tried, including all three of his 3-pointers. But Faust wasn't alone in his poor shooting or decision-making.
Layman, who had scored 18 points at Duke, shot 1-of-6. Smotrycz and sophomore forward Charles Mitchell were each 1-of-4. In all, it was another deflating loss for the Terps, who had the benefit of having been off since the Wake Forest game.
“They're a good team, we're a good team, we could have won this game, just like we could have won against Duke and Virginia and all these other good teams we've been playing close,” Wells said. “Something's got to happen. I'm just going to put in on my shoulders to figure out what I need to do or what needs to happen to make the jump and win these games against these teams.”