There's a generations-old adage in basketball that might go all the way back to the invention of the jump shot.
If your outside shot is not falling, drive the ball to the basket with hopes of getting a layup, a dunk or even a couple of free throws.
Maryland's inability to hit its outside shots over the past four games has only been compounded by the fact that the Terps have also missed their share near, at, or even over the rim. What has made it even worse is that second-year coach Mark Turgeon's team has not been to the foul line as much as he'd like and they need.
Over a stretch of four games when the Terps shot a dismal 36 percent (82 of 231) as a team from the field, including 15 of 67 on 3-point shots, they have only taken 54 free throws to 66 for their opponents, making just 33.
"I think it kind of just all snowballed at once — not getting to the foul line, not making jump shots, not finishing around the basket," Turgeon said Monday. "We just keep guarding and trying to get better at that, and rebound, and try to figure out a way to make some hoops."
Losers of three of its past four, Maryland (14-4, 2-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) will try to rectify some of its offensive issues Tuesday night when the Terps host Boston College (9-8, 1-3 in the ACC). The Eagles have also lost three of four — the defeats by a total of nine points — coming into Comcast Center.
Asked why his team has taken fewer free throws the past four games than it has for much of the season — Maryland averaged nearly 23 free throws a game over the first 14 games, including 22 of 28 in the ACC opener against Virginia Tech — Turgeon could point to a number of reasons.
"Maybe we're not being as aggressive with the drive as we need to be," Turgeon said. "Maybe teams are taking away the drive and making us shoot from the outside, which is pretty smart on their part. We're not as active [on the offensive boards]. A lot of times you can get fouled and get second-chance points and things like that. We've got to get there more. We'll keep battling until we get it figured out."
A lack of outside shooting has certainly played into Maryland being kept off the free throw line, including a season-low eight times in last Wednesday's 51-50 win over North Carolina State . Opposing defenses have been double and triple-teaming Alex Len inside, keeping the 7-1 sophomore center in check the past two games — though he made all six of his free throw attemps attempts and seven of 15 field goal attempts — while challenging the Terps to hoist jumpers.
"We start off every game going inside-out, but the last two games it hasn't really gone that way with going to the free throw line a lot," said sophomore point guard Nick Faust (City). "I feel as long as we get the best shot for the team, I think Coach will be happy with it."
Faust said that it is up to more than just Len and Maryland's inside players to get to the foul line. Faust made one of two free throws in Saturday's 62-52 loss at North Carolina, the first two he even attempted in a span of five games. Faust went to the line 44 times in the team’s first 12 games, but has not taken the ball to the basket as much since hurting his shoulder and suffering back spasms in practice before the ACC opener.
"It's just me taking the opportunity [to drive] when the opportunity presents itself, being aggressive at times, doing whatever the team needs," said Faust, who has hit just 4 of 16 shots from the field since taking over the point from a struggling Pe'Shon Howard two games ago. "If not, it's just trying to get the team open shots."
Sophomore swingman Dez Wells was one of two Maryland players to be aggressive against North Carolina, particularly in the second half after the Tar Heels had built a 42-20 halftime lead. Wells went to the line eight times, hitting five, in scoring a team-high 21 points. Len finished the game with only two free throws and scored 10 points for the second straight game.
Freshman Charles Mitchell finished with nine points, with each of his four baskets coming inside, the majority on rebound follows. He also had 11 rebounds. The wide-body forward only went to the line twice, and neither freshman Shaquille Cleare, who played just 10 foul-plagued minutes in making second straight start, or senior forward James Padgett, who played just six, went the line at all.
"We have to attack the basket if our shot is not falling — especially then, to get to the foul line to [account] for the points we're not scoring," Mitchell said Monday.