It sounded like an excuse, but after the Boilermakers dismantled Maryland early and eventually held on for an 80-75 victory, Turgeon might be right.
Purdue, experienced and physically imposing, is better right now than a Maryland team still trying to figure out who its go-to guy, or guys, should be.
“I thought Purdue was just really good. I thought [Isaac] Haas and [Dakota] Mathias were terrific; their execution was terrific,” Turgeon said after his team’s first loss in a Big Ten opener since Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2014-15. “They’re just much further along than we are. They had a summer tour for about a month. It showed. They have four seniors, played a lot of minutes for them, won a lot of games for them. They deserved to win.”
It was the third loss in the past four games for Maryland (6-3, 0-1 Big Ten), which now has more losses than it did in its first 22 games during last year’s school-record start.
All five starters were in double figures for Purdue (7-2, 1-0), which got zero points off the bench and was led by Haas (21 points on 10-for-13 shooting). Senior guard Dakota Mathias finished with 20 points and nine assists. Senior forward Vincent Edwards added 10 points and 11 rebounds.
While the Terps made things interesting, there was never a feeling that Turgeon’s team had ever gained control.
Maryland had the lead just once — for a total of 18 seconds — after a 3-pointer by sophomore wing Kevin Huerter early in the second half.
After cutting what had been four different 14 point-deficits to six by halftime, and down 57-55 with 10:33 to go, Maryland had a chance to take its second lead on a 3-point shot by senior wing Jared Nickens, who missed. After falling behind again by as many as nine at 72-63, Nickens had a shot to tie the game with 14 seconds to go and the Terps down three. He missed again.
“To me, it’s amazing that we had a shot to tie it at the end, and we got a great look, and that’s all you can ask,” Turgeon said. “I’m proud of the effort, but we’ve got to play a little better. … We got behind [early], but I love the way we finished the [first] half, I love the way we started the second and I love the way we battled. But they’re further along at this point.”
Huerter gives up chance at tying 3
Turgeon said he had initially drawn up the play in the waning seconds for Huerter to take the 3-pointer. But the 6-foot-7 sophomore pointed out that the Boilermakers would probably be looking for him to take it, based on his remarkable performance at Syracuse on Monday (7-for-9 on 3-pointers) and that he took the last shot a year ago in a 73-72 home loss to the Boilermakers.
“Jared has hit a lot of big shots in his career for us, got a wide-open look,” Turgeon said. “I don’t know if we’d got a wide-open look if we ran it for Kevin."
Said Huerter, “I don’t know what Jared’s shooting on the year (now 13-for-24 after going 2-for-4 from beyond the arc Friday), but he’s shooting really well. We’ve got a lot of confidence in Jared. He makes a lot of shots in practice and in games.”
Anthony Cowan Jr. and Huerter did most of the offensive damage for Maryland, finishing with 20 points (seven in the last minute) and 19 points, respectively. But Cowan, who also had five assists and six rebounds, took 12 shots and Huerter just nine.
“Mathias can guard. Sometimes people don’t want to give him credit, but Mathias is a really good defensive player,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said of the 6-4 senior, whose main responsibly defensively was denying Huerter open looks.
Morsell’s tough night shooting
Freshman guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) was 3-for-16 and finished with nine points. While he didn’t take bad shots — most of his misses came on open looks, tough drives or pull-ups in the lane — it’s questionable when he’s attempting more than Huerter or Cowan. Freshman forward Bruno Fernando added 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Boilermakers almost dared Morsell, whose outside shooting is the only suspect part of his game right now, to take 3-pointers. He missed all four he tried.
“We wanted to help with Morsell. We wanted to have a short close-out on him because he’s so athletic and can get to the rim and try to stop his drives,” Painter said. “If anybody was going to get some perimeter shots, it was going to be him. And if he made a couple, then we’d adjust to it. He just didn’t knock any down.”
Though not singling out Morsell, Turgeon acknowledged that his young team rushed a number of shots.
“We’ve got a lot to learn," Turgeon said. “We just got to watch film and keep coaching. There were a few guys that rushed a few. Got to keep coaching ’em and keep trying to get better and understand the situations better.
Another slow start defensively
As in their previous two defeats, the Terps watched as the Boilermakers seemingly hit every shot they took in the first half. Purdue, which finished the half 17-for-26 from the field, didn’t miss in the first four minutes and Mathias didn’t miss any of the seven shots he took including four 3-pointers in an 18-point first half.
“We weren’t ready defensively to play the game,” said Turgeon, who started the same lineup Friday that he did against Syracuse. “The speed of the game on that end, the way they ran their offense was too much for us.”
Said Huerter, “We didn’t start off the game guarding like we’re capable. It seems to be a trend so far, is us not starting off games defensively very well. But I think we did a better job in the second half. They didn't get as many open looks.”
Turgeon shortens his rotation
After acknowledging he did too much substituting last week in Florida, Turgeon cut down on the minutes of several players in Monday’s 72-70 loss at Syracuse.
That trend continued Friday as junior forward Ivan Bender, who started the season opener as well as two other games, did not get off the bench in the first half against the Boilermakers and played just two minutes. Graduate transfer center Sean Obi played just a minute, in the first half.
While Turgeon continues to start redshirt junior Dion Wiley, Morsell played 17 minutes off the bench in the first half and finished with 34 minutes. Only Cowan and Huerter, who each played 37, played more. Wiley took two shots and failed to score in 12 minutes, while Nickens played 15 and hit the two 3-pointers.
“I thought I played guys more tonight than I did the other night,” Turgeon said. “I played Jared and Dion more. Jared gave us good minutes. I thought Dion defensively was better. Anthony and Kevin are hard to take off the floor.”
Road trip to Illinois now a little more important
With the first of several two-day turnarounds in this strange Big Ten season — one that will end a week earlier than normal with the league’s postseason tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York — the Terps go on the road Sunday to play Illinois.
Not only is it a crucial game in terms of Maryland trying to get back on track after a 5-0 start, but it comes a year after the Terps won seven of their nine games on the road in the Big Ten. Maryland won last year at State Farm Center after losing at Illinois in 2014-15.