College Park — After Maryland men’s basketball junior guard Hakim Hart’s potential game-tying 3-pointer clanked off the rim during the final seconds of Wednesday night’s matchup against Virginia Tech, chants of “Fire Turgeon” echoed throughout the Xfinity Center. As the Terps trotted to the locker room after a 62-58 loss to the Hokies, they were showered with boos.
It’s only eight games into the season, but Terps’ 5-3 start has garnered frustration from a hungry fan base and the team itself. From poor 3-point shooting to an inability to maintain leads, Maryland has not lived up to the preseason hype.
“We all are frustrated because the standard here is high at Maryland,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “The expectations were high coming into the season, but we’re still getting used to playing with each other and we are better in a lot of phases, but we are not good enough to beat good teams.”
If Maryland wanted to show it had learned from Saturday’s loss to Louisville in the Baha Mar Hoops Championship game, Wednesday’s matchup against Virginia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge was the perfect opportunity. The Terps were honoring the legacy of recent College Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Len Bias in front of their biggest home crowd this season.
“This was a special night,” Turgeon said. “We wanted to play great for him and we weren’t able to do it.”
After Maryland trailed at halftime for the sixth time this season, graduate transfer guard Fatts Russell helped ignite an 8-0 run that gave the Terps a 37-33 lead to start the second half. Russell delivered a nice pass to Hart for a layup, then charged towards the rim for a layup on the next possession.
With 12 minutes remaining in the game, a crowd of students wearing gold No. 34 Bias jerseys rose to their feet. After Russell’s layup attempt was blocked, Reese grabbed the offensive rebound and threw down a two-handed slam to give Maryland a 43-36 lead.
Maryland’s defense forced the Hokies (6-2) to miss 13 consecutive shots, but the Terps’ inconsistent offense prevented them from taking advantage, as Maryland only led by two points with 7:28 remaining in the game. The Terps watched almost all of their 3-point attempts bounce off the rim, finishing 1-for-13 from behind the arc. Maryland entered the game shooting 28.5% from the 3-point line.
“It’s a little [upsetting] when you can’t capitalize on certain things,” said junior forward Donta Scott, who finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. “We just got to come together to figure out what’s the best solution to capitalizing.”
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech finally found some offensive rhythm, as it went on a commanding 10-2 run in the middle of the second half. Back-to-back 3-pointers from guards Nahiem Alleyne and Hunter Cattoor gave the Hokies a 52-48 lead with 5:20 remaining in the game.
Chants of “Let’s go Hokies” filled the arena when forward Keve Aluma scored to give Virginia Tech a six-point lead. Cattoor buried another 3-pointer, extending the Hokies’ lead to 59-52 with three minutes remaining.
As Maryland struggled to find any offensive consistency, junior forward Qudus Wahab continued to dominate the low post, scoring 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting in the first half. With the Terps trailing by one, Wahab nailed a contested layup to give his team a 27-26 lead with 2:40 remaining.
Turnovers, however, continued to be a problem for the Terps. Whether it was miscommunication or simply poor execution, Maryland committed 15 turnovers.
“Fifteen turnovers against a team that doesn’t pressure,” Turgeon said. “We had three on the [fast-break] in the second half. We didn’t make great decisions all the time.”
With Russell and senior guard Eric Ayala combining for 10 points on 3-for-19 shooting, Maryland had to rely on Wahab for offensive production. The Georgetown transfer scored 14 of his team-high 18 points in the first half, but he was a nonfactor down the stretch. Wahab picked up his fourth foul midway through the second half and was a defensive liability at times.
“Our offense was a lot better when [Wahab] was in the game,” Turgeon said. “He’s getting better defensively. He just got to keep working on it and it was a hard matchup for him tonight.”
When the dust settled after yet another game the Terps should’ve won, Turgeon kept preaching confidence in this group. Even Virginia Tech coach Mike Young reminded the media that it’s only Dec. 1 and Maryland is a good team.
However, Maryland hasn’t played well and Big Ten Conference play is looming. The Terps’ offensive inconsistencies and overall execution late in games don’t seem as if they can be fixed overnight.
Big Ten opener
TV: BTN Radio: 105.7 FM