By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun
11:33 PM EST, February 27, 2013
Someday, Mark Turgeon insists, Maryland will become a formidable road team.
To the second-year Terps coach, away games represent a vast, uncharted frontier that Maryland must conquer if it is going to be good.
Wednesday night, Maryland allowed Georgia Tech to shoot 51 percent as the Terps dropped another road game, 78-68. They're 2-6 in opponents' arenas this season after going 1-8 last year.
The result means its fans can still count Maryland's Atlantic Coast Conference road victories this season not only on one hand -- but on one finger. Maryland won at Virginia Tech on Feb. 7.
"They [the Yellow Jackets] played smarter than we played, got to the foul line a lot more than we did," Turgeon said. The Yellow Jackets were 20 of 27 from the line. Maryland was 10-for-14.
"Obviously, defensively we weren't great," Turgeon said. "That was probably the biggest disappointment in the game."
Georgia Tech shot 57.1 percent in the first half to take a 38-33 lead.
"Our point guard play in the first half was about as bad it has been," Turgeon said. "Nick [Faust] was bad and Pe'Shon [Howard]'s decision making was terrible."
Maryland struggled to score early in the second half.
The Yellow Jackets extended the lead to 56-42 on a pair of free throws and a field goal by Robert Carter (19 points). The Terps applied full court pressure to try to get closer.
But Turgeon said flatly that the pressure -- which has worked at times this season -- was ineffective.
"Our philosophy against full court pressure is to attack it and try to score," Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said. "That was the best 40 minutes of basketball that we played all year long in terms of consistent performance in every key area."
As it tried to make a run, Maryland was hurt when Brandon Reed converted a long 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down to increase Georgia Tech's lead to 63-48. After that, the closest Maryland came was 71-62. Dez Wells, who led Maryland with 15 points, was quickly called for goaltending on the other end -- he raised his arms up and down in protest -- and Georgia Tech's lead returned to double digits.
Maryland (19-9, 7-8 ACC) was trying for its third win in four games. The late-season road games have taken on a sense of urgency because the Terps know they have not yet built a strong enough record to earn an NCAA tournament berth.
"We know to be a good team -- to be an NCAA tournament team -- you must win on the road," said Maryland guard Seth Allen (12 points), who has been fighting a cold the past two games. "We're just going to keep trying to defend on the road. That's what killing us."
Maryland's next game is also on the road -- at Wake Forest -- and the team decided to spent the night in Atlanta on Wednesday night and head directly to Wake Forest on Thursday rather than returning home between games.
Against the Yellow Jackets, Maryland shot 4-for-19 on 3-pointers.
The Terps sought to establish their inside game with center Alex Len, but the results were mixed.
The 7-footer had failed to reach double figures in the previous two games. Along the way, he endured the indignity of seeing his shot blocked by smaller players and having his coach remark that he looked "heavy-legged."
Len scored 13 points on Wednesday night. But Turgeon said the sophomore was often outplayed by Georgia Tech center Daniel Miller, who was 12-for-12 from the foul line and finished with 16 points.
"I thought he got pushed around all night," Turgeon said of Len.
Len said the game changed in the second half. With Maryland trailing by double digits, the Terps looked inside less.
"We changed our offense and were trying to score faster because we were down like 10 or 15, " Len said.
Maryland had played one of its worst games of the season last year in losing to Georgia Tech on the road. That game was played at Philips Arena -- home of the Atlanta Hawks -- because the school's arena was still being constructed. Wednesday's game was at the new McCamish Pavilion, which incorporated the roof and steel supports of the old Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
The Yellow Jackets entered with the worst field-goal percentage in the conference (41.7) and the second-worst scoring offense (63.5 points per game). They easily eclipsed those totals on Wednesday night.
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