Florida State rallies past Maryland

Florida State rallies past Maryland
January 9, 2013, 10:30 pm

The Maryland Terrapins got taught a basketball lesson tonight courtesy of the Florida State Seminoles.

That lesson was more than the value of experience versus youth in an important conference battle. That was significant in and of itself. The more pertinent lesson was about the value of resilience and tenacity and toughness.

Toughness has nothing to do with throwing an elbow or woofing at another player during the game. Toughness is getting a critical rebound in a tie game and finding a way to score. Toughness is about bottling up the other team’s best options down the stretch of a game and making it impossible for them to execute at crunch time. Maybe most of all, toughness is strolling to the free throw line with 18,000 hostiles screaming at you and nailing game winning foul shots.

Given that criteria, Florida State was the tougher team.

It’s a whole lot more preferable to be taught lessons when you win but they probably don’t quite sink in like they do when you lose. The sting of this defeat will linger for these young Terps and with good reason.

In spite of a 11 first half turnovers, Maryland still held a twelve point lead in the waning seconds of the first half and seemed to be completely in control of the game. When Seminole reserve guard Ian Miller hit a prayer of a three pointer at the first half buzzer it seemed to be just another bomb that FSU was forced to toss up in the face of Maryland’s stifling first half defense. When the shot went through it cut the lead from 12 to 9, an important psychological barrier as both teams went to the locker room.

Not only did the Terps have a 36-27 lead at half, they had mauled the Seminoles on the backboards to the tune of 26-11 and had harassed the visitors into horrid 31% shooting (9-19).

Then the second half happened.

With the Terps holding a 41-30 lead at the 16 minute mark of the second half they simply stopped scoring. Attribute it to Florida State ratcheting up the defense and their rebounding efforts, of the Terps failure to execute or the continued turnovers.

Whatever it was, it was painful.

Over the next eight minutes Florida State went on a prolonged 16-2 run to seize the lead at 46-43. Maryland’s Logan Aaronhalt nailed a three to tie the game briefly and allow the crowd to exhale but the joy would be short-lived. That Aaronhalt three seemed to break the logjam a bit and the Terps scored a little bit easier the rest of the game but they could not seal the deal defensively.

The reason they couldn’t close the game out was because of an inability to defend Seminole forward Okaro White. He was the best player on the court and there was a long distance between he and number 2.

For a crucial six minute stretch in the second half – from the 8:45 mark to 2:30- White scored fifteen consecutive points for his team and made play after play after play. Maryland tried multiple defenders on him and went from big to small but never found any success at all. White also spearheaded the Seminole effort on the glass and led their effort with nine rebounds to go along with his 20 points.

In the second half Florida State outrebounded the Terps 28-16. To do that on the road against a team of Maryland’s interior size and strength was really impressive and a huge part of the second half turnaround.

Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon was quick to accept his share of the blame afterward. Specifically, he pointed to all of the different combinations he tried during the game and suggested that his team would have been far better off if he had just sat down and let his players play. He seemed to think that there was a corresponding lack of continuity as a result of all of the substitutions.

Agree or disagree, that kind of candor from a coach of Turgeon’s profile is as fascinating as it is astounding. To visit with him after some games – particularly the losses- amounts to a kind of public blood-letting.

Down the stretch the Terps somehow had their chances. They seemed to be dead in the water with a minute to play but hit a couple of well-timed threes and found themselves down by two with just ten seconds to play.

Quick rewind required here…after their season opening loss to Kentucky, Turgeon publicly flogged himself for not having the ball in the hands of freshman Seth Allen on the last possession of the game.

Now back to tonight…with no timeouts and down two with ten seconds to play, Turgeon had the ball in –guess who?- Allen’s hands in a situation that the Terps had probably practiced dozens of times since that opening loss. Yet, rather than attack the basket on the play, Allen settled for a well-defended shot from the three point line that was blocked and Florida State had a hard-earned ACC win on the road.

It has been said that failure is fertilizer and that teams learn a lot more about themselves when they lose. Maybe they do and maybe they don’t but for the Terps the learning had better come in short order because a good Miami team awaits this weekend in a building they have never won in.

After having given one away at home, the Terps will need to make it up on the road at some point.
Miami would be a nice place to start.