University of Maryland men's head coach Mark Turgeon talks about the 74-68 loss to Michigan State. (Kenneth K. Lam. Baltimore Sun video)
COLLEGE PARK — Of all the stats coming out of Maryland’s loss to No. 6 Michigan State on Sunday at Xfinity Center, here’s one that cuts right to the heart of the kind of season it has been almost from the start.
Coach Mark Turgeon’s men’s basketball team has already lost as many Big Ten games — the Terps are 4-6 — as it did in any of its first three years in the league.
And there are still eight regular-season games remaining.
It gets even trickier, with Maryland traveling to No. 3 Purdue for a game Wednesday night, meaning that barring a major upset at Mackey Arena or a sudden winning streak, this is quickly turning into the worst season since leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference.
As much as some thought there would be rebuilding after Maryland lost star guard Melo Trimble turned pro, Turgeon wasn’t the only one who figured he had enough talent, depth and experience to compensate for Trimble’s absence.
Maryland’s chances of a fourth straight NCAA tournament are just about gone.
While teams have gone on late-seasons runs to earn an invitation to be one of the 68 teams invited into March Madness, the Terps are trending in the wrong direction.
The loss to the Spartans, who were playing on only a day’s rest, was the fourth in five games and fifth in seven for Maryland. With only two top-50 opponents remaining — the Boilermakers in West Lafayette, Ind., and No. 25 Michigan on senior day — the Terps have few opportunities to build even a modest NCAA tournament resume.
Considering that Maryland hasn’t exactly been a strong second half team since 2014-15, when Trimble and Dez Wells helped the Terps close with eight straight regular-season wins, a turnaround doesn’t seem very likely.
Sunday’s sellout could be the only one this season.
This was the Terps’ first announced home sellout of the season — even the Big Ten opener against Purdue in early December didn’t attract a full house — a fact that speaks volumes about the dwindling fan base.
Unless the Terps can somehow pull off that huge upset Wednesday against the Boilermakers, Maryland shouldn’t expect another big crowd for Wisconsin on Sunday.
The rest of the schedule is not exactly a fan magnet: Northwestern (Feb. 10), Rutgers (Feb. 17) and Michigan (Feb. 24). For a so-called “basketball school,” the crowds this season have been pretty disappointing. Alarming even.
For a couple of hours — or at least until it became apparent that the Terps were going to let another close game slip away — it was a pleasant reminder of what used to be.
After playing one of its best halves of the season to take a 13-point lead into its locker room at halftime, Maryland was outscored 18-4 in a little over the first five minutes of the second half. By the time the Terps recovered and seemed to get some momentum back, it was too late.
It was reminiscent of when the Terps had a 14-point lead late in the first half at Michigan a couple of weeks ago, led by 10 at halftime and found themselves tied when the Wolverines scored the first 10 points of the second half.
While it speaks of a team running out of steam because of a lack of depth, it also speaks of a team that doesn't make the proper second-half adjustments.
Sometimes it’s difficult for coaches to have their teams listen at halftime when everything is going well; sometimes the opposing team is just better.
What happened Sunday is a little of both, but if the Terps were able to build on their lead and then got freshman forward Jaren Jackson Jr. into the kind of foul trouble he experienced — picking up his fourth with 11:23 left — the outcome might have been different.
While this loss might not have had as tough an ending as Monday’s 71-68 loss at Indiana and the 68-67 defeat at Michigan on Jan. 15— which in retrospect might be the one that could have turned the season around if the Terps didn’t forget to play defense in the final three seconds — losing a 13-point lead at home is crushing.