The Maryland men’s basketball team had just lost its first game of the season, a 73-59 pasting by Pittsburgh Tuesday at Xfinity Center that saw the Terps fall behind by 21 points by halftime and by 25 early in the second half.
Asked about the team’s poor shooting against a 3-2 zone the Panthers played for most of the game and whether it was a concern going forward, Mark Turgeon had a message for future opponents thinking of following a similar gameplan.
“Please zone us, please zone us,” he said. “We’re going to make shots against the zone. I was thrilled when he [Pittsburgh coach Kevin Stallings] went zone. Zone us. We’re going to be good. We weren’t good tonight.”
After hitting three of its first four 3-pointers and four of its first six, the first three of them coming against a man-to-man defense, Maryland went cold. The Terps wound up missing the last seven they took in the first half and the first five they tried in the second half.
While Maryland hit a bunch of 3-pointers to help cut the lead to eight with three minutes left, the Terps finished 10 of 36 from 3-point range.
“I think I’m going to watch the film and realize that we probably had four or five wide open 3s against it, initially, and didn’t make them,” Turgeon said. “ It was just one of those nights, it really was. I’m telling you, we’re going to be a great zone offense team. We’ve got great shooters. We’ve got guys that can penetrate. We got big guys around the rim. It just wasn’t our night.”
In truth, the Terps have shot poorly from long-range all season, even during what had been a 7-0 start. They are shooting just over 30 percent (60 of 197) from 3-point range. Aside from freshman forward Justin Jackson, who has made 15 of 29, none of the other starters or rotation players is at 35 percent.
Junior guard Melo Trimble was two of eight from 3-point range against Pittsburgh and is shooting a shade under 33.3 percent (16 of 49). Freshman wing Kevin Huerter took nine shots, all of them 3-pointers, and hit two to bring his season average down to 29.7 percent. Freshman guard Anthony Cowan is shooting 17.4 percent after going 1 of 4 against Pittsburgh.
Part of Maryland’s problem – one that could hurt the Terps as the season goes on – is that there is no one right now to give a boost off the bench if the starters come out cold.
Junior wing Jared Nickens, who hit his first 3-pointer against Pittsburgh and then missed his next five, is 5 of 27 and has continued his decline from a freshman year that saw him second on the team behind Trimble in 3-pointers made (57) and 3-point percentage (39.1). He dropped to 34.1 percent last season.
Redshirt sophomore guard Dion Wiley, still trying to get into form after missing last season with a torn meniscus, has shown signs of becoming a zone buster. He made a couple of late 3-pointers against Pittsburgh to help fuel the ill-fated comeback, and is shooting six of 18 for the season.
Junior guard Jaylen Brantley has missed his last 11 3-pointers after starting the season three of his first five.
Trimble said he believes the Pittsburgh game was simply a matter of not making shots, but acknowledged the team’s slow start from 3-point range.
“We had a lot of wide-open looks, we got to take them,” Trimble said. “We’re all good shooters. I know we haven’t been shooting the ball well, but I know we’re going to start shooting well and we’re going to get better.”
Asked how the Terps can correct the problem, Trimble had a simple answer.
“Confidence,” he said. “Coach Turgeon said the other day, if we’re going to shoot the ball, shoot it with confidence. That’s what we have to do from now, just know that you’re going to make it.”