COLLEGE PARK — Maryland men's basketball head coach Mark Turgeon wouldn't allow his Terps to say the word "Christmas" until after Saturday's game against Boston University at Comcast Center.
Given how the Terps played, the notion of a holiday was obviously not far from mind. Maryland gave up too many wide-open shots, gave away too many second chances and helped give the Terriers a too-early Christmas present.
Not that Boston University didn't deserve its 83-77 victory, played out before a frustrated announced crowd of 10,882. Led by senior guard D.J. Irving, who finished with a game-high 25 points, the Terriers shot 10-for-26 from 3-point range.
The loss broke a modest two-game winning streak for Maryland (7-5), which now has eight days to ponder its second nonconference home defeat of the season. The Terps also lost to Oregon State on Nov. 17.
While crediting Boston University (7-5) in general and its guards in particular — “Out of this world” was the way Turgeon put it — the third-year Maryland coach was left at a total loss trying to figure out his own team.
"We didn't start the game very well, we didn't finish the [first] half very well, didn't play with energy to start the second half," Turgeon said. "We got it tied [in the second half]. We didn't play particularly smart after that."
Along with their own long-range productivity, the Terriers took advantage of Maryland's sloppy ball handling, turning 17 turnovers into 25 points. Junior wing Dez Wells led the Terps with 18 points and five blocked shots, but he also had six turnovers.
Trailing by 10 points at halftime, Maryland actually took the lead, 58-57, when junior forward Evan Smotrycz (15 points and 13 rebounds) followed his own missed 3-pointer with a spinning drive for a layup with a little over nine minutes left. But Boston University countered immediately with a 3-pointer by sophomore forward Nathan Dieudonne to start a 13-3 run.
Turgeon and his players agreed on one thing: The Terps shouldn't lose at home when they score as many points as they did Saturday. They also lost to visiting Oregon State, 90-83, on Nov. 17.
Except for a three-game stretch at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands last month, an inability to sustain defensive pressure has plagued the Terps this season.
"I think we've got to play the full 35 seconds" on the shot clock, Smotrycz said. "There's a bunch of instances where we play 30 seconds good and a ball screen will happen and guys won't do their job, and guys get into the paint and get an easy shot. Late-clock breakdowns are definitely a problem for us."
Offensively, the Terps never seemed to get in any kind of flow against Boston University's 2-3 zone. The Terriers paid particular attention to sophomore forward Jake Layman, who after making four of five shots in the first half took only four shots in the second half and didn't make any.
"He's got a to be a little more aggressive," Turgeon said of Layman. "It wasn't a box-and-one [defense], but it was a zone, and two or three guys always knew where Jake was. Other guys got to play better.
"If they're going to have two guys guarding Jake, we're going to have four on three. Other guys got to play better. They just didn't guard certain guys, and certain guys didn't step up. It's that simple."
Said Layman, who finished with 14 points before fouling out late in the game: "In the second half, they were definitely targeting me a little more on the defensive end. I think in th second half, our offense was great. … Our offense was definitely not the problem."
Other ongoing issues continued to undo Maryland.
A lack of a big man who can block and alter shots, as Alex Len did the past two seasons, is noticeable. Junior forward Jonathan Graham (Calvert Hall) had two blocks in 15 minutes, but sophomore center Shaquille Cleare and sophomore forward Charles Mitchell didn't have any in in a combined 22 minutes.
"We've got to figure out if we can get a shot blocker in there, to see if we can get our big guys to play better," said Turgeon, who also used freshman Damonte Dodd for two minutes. "We have no presence at the rim."
The Terps also miss free throws at inopportune times and commit too many fouls on defense, with new NCAA rules regulating hand-checking a seemingly constant issue. Maryland finished 15-for-26 from the free-throw line; the Terriers went 23-for-36.
In reality, there's a lot for Turgeon and his staff to fix between now and the team's next game, Dec. 29 at home against Tulsa. With his players scattering for a few days with their families and friends, Turgeon likely will be bleary-eyed as he looks at game tape for a solution to some of the problems.
"I'll be honest. I've been coaching a long time; the ball is not bouncing our way," said Turgeon, who was denied his 300thcareer victory. "You got to create that. [Trailing 60-58], we had two 3s go all the way in and out.
"We've got to figure out how to make the ball bounce our way. We just have to do it. I've never seen something like this. With that said, the break might be coming at a good time."
Just in time for a certain unspoken holiday.