ATLANTA -- It was evident by the way Mark Turgeon spoke — with his head lowered and in an almost disbelieving tone — that the Maryland coach considered it far too late in the season to still be harping on the same issues that have plagued his young team for weeks.
Lack of inside toughness, selfishness on offense, missed layups — Turgeon recited all the usual culprits following Maryland’s 63-61 loss at Philips Arena on Saturday to a last-place Georgia Tech team that had lost 10 of its previous 11 games.
“I haven't felt this way in awhile. I just thought we were growing up, and we haven’t,” Turgeon said.
With the loss, Maryland (16-12, 6-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) dropped to 1-7 in away games and missed an opportunity to reach .500 in conference play.
Losses seem to stick with Turgeon like tiny scars. But for Turgeon and senior leader Sean Mosley, this one seemed worse than the others. Perhaps that’s because the regular season has only two games remaining and the coach and Mosley — the only Terp to start every game —expected more.
“(It’s) my last go-round and I want to go to the NCAA tournament,” said Mosley, speaking in a monotone. “It’s the same thing over and over. We win a game, we lose a game.”
The Terps have not managed back-to-back victories in six weeks.
Maryland will return to Philips Arena to play in the ACC tournament beginning March 8. Turgeon hoped the Terps might come in on a late-season roll. His point of emphasis before the Georgia Tech game was “toughness.”
Instead it was Georgia Tech that elevated its game when it needed to. The Yellow Jackets said they had been embarrassed by a 61-50 loss to the Terps at Comcast Center on Jan. 15. In that game, Maryland repeatedly got to the foul line by attacking the Yellow Jackets inside. Rather than stand their ground in the lane, “we bailed out,” Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory recalled Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets challenged themselves Saturday to be more physical. “It was going to be a boxing match. It was going to be a fighting match,” said Georgia Tech guard Mfon Udofia.
Turgeon seemed almost offended to watch his team lose such a battle. While Maryland guard Terrell Stoglin was subpar —he shot 5-for-17 from the floor —it was the play of his “bigs” that seemed to disturb Turgeon most.
Forward Ashton Pankey shot 0-for-8 and was scoreless. Forward James Padgett (six points) continued a pattern of playing far less effectively on the road than in College Park.
After getting to the foul line twice in the first half, the Yellow Jackets converted 11 of 14 free throws in the second half — indicative of their aggressive play. Maryland had to foul when trailing at the end.
“The hard part today is just the lack of competitiveness when we had to compete. I don’t like to think my teams usually do that,” Turgeon said.
He said Georgia Tech’s inside players “kicked our big guys’ tails. They wanted it more.”
Maryland led by as many as nine points in the second half. But the Terps began the second half cold, and Georgia Tech went on an 13-3 run to take a 44-43 lead with 12:36 left.
The Yellow Jackets extended the margin to 53-46 on a 3-point play by forward Kammeon Holsey (team-leading 16 points).
A drive by Stoglin cut the deficit to 53-50 with 4:58 left. Moments later, Stoglin’s layup put the Terps ahead, 56-55. That was Maryland’s last lead.
With Georgia Tech leading 58-56, guard Brandon Reed converted a 3-pointer —the biggest shot of the game —to push the margin to five with 27 seconds remaining. Reed said Maryland’s defense was “sagging” inside when he pulled up for the shot.
The Terps inched to within three and had the ball with 18 seconds left following a Georgia Tech turnover. But Stoglin missed a jumper and Maryland was forced to foul.
Maryland’s final chance came moments later when Nick Faust (City) missed a three-quarter-court heave to try to win the game as time expired.
Maryland missed an opportunity to improve its prospects for a better seed in the ACC tournament. Saturday’s game was played before an announced crowd of 6,502 – a small enough crowd that the sound of the ball hitting the floor seemed to echo around the arena. It will be a different atmosphere here in less than two weeks.
“We could have been tied (in the ACC) for fifth,” Turgeon said. “As a staff, we’re just disappointed. It’s got to mean more.”