Baltimore Sun reporters Don Markus, Jeff Barker and producer-editor Jonas Shaffer weigh in on three topics from the past week in Maryland sports.
Who's to blame for Maryland not winning close games, Mark Turgeon or his players?
Don Markus: After losing to No. 4 Syracuse on Monday night at Comcast Center, the Terps are now 3-5 overall this season in games decided by six points or less, including 1-3 in the ACC.
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That includes non-conference wins over Florida Atlantic (66-62) and Providence (56-52) and non-league losses to Connecticut (78-77) in Brooklyn and George Washington (77-75).
The only ACC win that was a close game shouldn’t have been – a 3-point win over Miami when Maryland blew a 10-point lead with 1:45 to go before Dez Wells made a 3-pointer that many questioned him for even taking.
Many blame Turgeon, and the ever-honest Midwesterner admitted that he didn’t do a great job getting his team ready to play against Syracuse’s zone.
But you shouldn’t blame Turgeon for Jake Layman missing the first of two free throws with 47.7 seconds left that would have tied the score rather than leaving the Terps down one.
You can’t blame Turgeon for Wells for giving up the ball to Faust when many thought Wells should have taken it right to the basket down the lane as he had done for much of the last five minutes.
You can’t blame Turgeon or Wells for the last play, which ended with Seth Allen taking an off-balanced 3-pointer rather than pulling up from 25 feet rather than trying to get a little closer to the basket.
You can’t even blame Turgeon for the two last-second shots Charles Mitchell tried recently at Duke, though many wondered why Wells would inbound the ball rather than try to take a pass to set up a potential game-winner.
But I think Turgeon has to take the responsibility for the way his team continues to miss opportunities down the stretch, something that’s been a recurring theme this season.
A coach has to take the blame, as Turgeon did after the Syracuse game, but at some point his players have to be able to make plays down the stretch. Three of Turgeon’s narrow wins came when players didn’t follow the script.
Along with Wells’ 3-pointer, there was two games last year that went down to the buzzer: when Alex Len tipped in an airball by Pe’Shon Howard against North Carolina State and when Allen was fouled and made a pair of free throws to beat Duke at Comcast Center.
It’s interesting to note that Turgeon’s last four teams at Texas A&M were 16-7 in games decided by four points or less, which means his players in Lubbock were more clutch than his players in College Park have been so far.
Many disgruntled fans say that Turgeon’s in-game coaching adjustments pale in comparison to those his predecessor made during his 22 years at Maryland. There were few coaches as good as Gary Williams in that regard, which is one reason he has recently been nominated for the Hall of Fame.
Some have blamed Turgeon’s struggles on the lack of talent Williams left him, or on the fact that Len left after last season and Terrell Stoglin was booted out of the program after his first season.
But Turgeon should be getting a lot more out of the talent he has recruited.
This is clearly Turgeon’s team and the players who are not delivering in clutch situations are players that he brought in, convined to transfer or, in Nick Faust’s case, retained from the former regime.
For Maryland to return to the NCAA tournament once they go to the Big Ten, winning close games is obviously something Turgeon’s team will have to do with more regularity. Something else that’s obvious: there’s a lot of blame to go around for what has transpired this season.
But I still think it’s up to players to make plays in crunch time. A coach can only do so much.