PITTSBURGH — Maryland men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon has often been highly critical of his team's play after double-digit losses during his first three seasons.
So many in the media were expecting Turgeon to do the same when he came into the postgame interview room Monday night after Maryland's most lopsided loss of the season, a 79-59 trouncing by Pittsburgh.
While not happy with the way the Terps finished the first half at the Petersen Events Center – the Panthers took a six-point lead after an 11-2 run to close the half – Turgeon tried to look at the positives of his team's first ACC loss this season.
"I know we lost by 20, but I'm more encouraged than I was three hours ago," Turgeon said. "I know that sounds crazy, but they shot 53 percent and we shot 45, and it's all correctable things for us.
"I know that sounds crazy, but I feel like we're better than the final score. ... We're getting there. We're 2-1 in the league. We've got a lot of road games early, so we've got to become a good road team."
Maryland goes to Florida State on Sunday, where the Terps haven't won since 2009-10 and lost a year ago on a last-second shot by Michael Snaer.
(The Terps haven't won in Tallahassee, Fla., since Greivis Vasquez silenced the Seminoles and their fans who were chanting "USA ... USA" and a few unprintable jingoistic comments at the Venezuelan guard.)
Getting back to Monday's game, the Terps did a lot of good things in the first 18 minutes and for a short time early in the second half. But there were also a few things that seemed to suggest they can revert back to early-season form when the opposition is physical.
* After sophomore center Shaquille Cleare hit an opening hook shot as he did in last Saturday's win over Georgia Tech at home, Maryland got very little inside. They seemed to settle on just beating the Panthers from the perimeter, which worked for awhile.
* Freshman guard Roddy Peters, who seemed to be in control with five assists and no turnovers against Georgia Tech, couldn't deal with Pitt's defensive pressure. Turgeon started Seth Allen the second half, and I wouldn't be surprised if he starts Allen on Sunday.
* Jake Layman has to figure out a way to get the ball when he is being tightly guarded, and the Terps have to get him the ball where he could score. The sophomore forward didn't get a shot off for nearly the first 17 minutes and wound up 1 of 7 from the field, scoring three points.
* Dez Wells can't be just another player on this team, especially on the road. He has carried the Terps away from Comcast Center ever since he got to Maryland, and seems to be the one player who can make a difference in tough environments. He scored five.
I agree with Turgeon that many of the problems that surfaced Monday night are fixable, but what's disturbing to many Maryland fans is the team's lack of collective toughness and what they view as a lack of competitiveness at times if things are not going their way.
It happened in last month's road loss at No. 5 Ohio State. While the Panthers are a Top 25 win or two away from being ranked, they are a team that the Terps could have beaten were they able to sustain what they did the first 18 minutes. Still, Turgeon kept things upbeat.
Asked about the positive tone Turgeon used in his postgame news conference, Allen said: "I think he just sees the potential we have, and he knows we got no calls, and as bad as we played, we were still in it, and they were playing their butt off. He's smart, he sees potential."
A good barometer will come Jan. 25 when Pitt plays in College Park. The Panthers play only one ranked team between now and then – at No. 2 Syracuse on Jan. 18 – but they are obviously going to be a factor in the ACC given what they've done so far.
"I can't believe they're not ranked at 14-1, they're as good as anyone we've played," Turgeon said. "They're a terrific team that's well-coached ... I can't see a lot of teams coming in here and beating them in this building, but that's the way it's been for years around here."