Maryland needs to put in the work and start games faster, Sulaimon says

MINNEAPOLIS — Rasheed Sulaimon gave Maryland more than just a career-high 28-point performance here at Williams Arena on Thursday night. In the aftermath of his team's shocking 68-63 loss to Minnesota, the senior guard also provided the sixth-ranked Terps some historical perspective.

"I remember my freshman year, Louisville in late February lost three in a row and they ended up coming back and winning the national championship," said Sulaimon, who was a starter on the Duke team that lost to the Cardinals in the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament.


While Sulaimon was a month off — the losing streak occurred in late January before Rick Pitino's team won 19 of its last 20 games — the message was clear: Despite the first two-game losing streak, the season is not over for Maryland (22-5, 10-4).

Still, Sulaimon admits that the Terps have at least one significant problem to rectify before Sunday's home game against Michigan. As happened in Saturday's 70-57 defeat to Wisconsin at Xfinity Center, Maryland started slowly against a team that had not won a Big Ten game this season.


"We just got to figure out how to start better," Sulaimon said. "Every game in this league and going forward, you can't have starts like that. You just put too much pressure on your team. Even though we played great in the second half, because of the deficit in the first half, it wasn't enough to come back."

That will certainly continue to keep Maryland coach Mark Turgeon up at night.

In all of his team's losses, as well as a few wins against inferior opponents, the Terps have come out lackadaisical, particularly at the defensive end. As a result, the Gophers led at halftime, 40-29, and by as much as 12 points in the second half.

Asked if his team took Minnesota (7-19, 1-13) lightly, Turgeon said, "We had a ton of respect for Minnesota. You look at their scores lately, what they've done. We know how good Iowa is, they almost beat Iowa. I don't know why we didn't start better. No, we put a lot into this game."

It appeared as if the Terps would overcome that double-digit deficit when a 3-point shot by Sulaimon with a little over three minutes remaining put Maryland in the lead, 60-59, for the first time since early in the game. But unlike some other road games against lesser opponents the past two seasons, the Terps didn't finish.

While Melo Trimble wasn't the only player to falter, airballing a mid-range jump shot with two minutes left and his team down one and then committing two turnovers in the final minute of the game, the mistakes by the sophomore point guard were the most glaring — and the most surprising.

"I thought he was a little better in the second half, a couple of [late] turnovers is not Melo-like," Turgeon said of Trimble, who finished with six turnovers and shot three of 11 from the field. "But defensively he was better, he was in tune. He ran our team well [six assists]. I've got to figure out a way to get him going, to get him better again."

The Terps return against a Michigan team that has struggled lately, worn down by a lack of backcourt depth and still playing without injured star Caris LeVert. But with a school record 27-game home winning streak ancient history, and with Thursday's embarrassing defeat here, Maryland needs to figure it out quickly.


"You watch film, you figure out your weaknesses and you have to be man enough to know when you're wrong and work on improving it individually and collectively as a team," Sulaimon said.

"We've got to get our continuity back, our chemistry back. The goal is just to be playing at our peak in March, during the Big Ten tournament and for the NCAA tournament."

Two weeks after some thought that, given the schedule, the then-No. 2 Terps might be eventually heading for the first No. 1 ranking in school history, Maryland is on the brink of getting bounced out of the Top 10 for the first time all season and seeing their potential high seed in the NCAA tournament plummet.

"To be honest, we're not worried about the rankings," Sulaimon said. "They can rank us, they can unrank us. I keep saying the same thing over and over throughout the season.

"We're focusing on us. We know we're in a bad stretch right now, we're 22-5, we've played tremendously all year. Every team goes through it. We've got to work, work, work."

Sulaimon then said something that might be telling about this Maryland team.


"Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard," he said. "We've just got to get back in the gym."