Knoche: Iona routs Maryland in Puerto Rico

Knoche: Iona routs Maryland in Puerto Rico
November 20, 2011, 10:07 pm
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By Chris KnocheCSNWashington.com Contributor

Boy, that sure wasnt any fun.

Proving that their season is still very much a work in progress the Maryland Terrapins succumbed to the offensive and defensive pressure supplied by a very good Iona Gaels basketball team and wound up being soundly defeated 89-63 in a consolation bracket of the 5 Hour Energy Puerto Rico Tip-off.

The loss dropped the Terps to 1-2 for the trip and 2-2 on the young season.

The success the team found in an energizing come from behind win against Colorado on Friday night turned out to be short-lived against Iona team.

Against their first two opponents here Alabama and Colorado the team had a combined 19 turnovers. In this game they had 16 by halftime. For the first half the team shot over 50 from the field and dominated the backboards but still trailed by double digits at one point before closing the Iona lead to 37-34 at the break.

In the first half the Terps struggled with Ionas full court pressure as well as the breakneck pressure that Iona forced on the offensive end. On many points in the game the Gaels simply countered a Maryland basket by inbounding and pushing the ball upcourt for an open three pointer or a layup within 5 or 6 seconds. Even though they were down just three at the half Maryland seemed to be laboring to bring the ball up and having to work very hard to score.

Even with all of that the Terps were certainly within spitting distance at the break and many of the Maryland fans in attendance were hopeful of a second half similar to the effort against Colorado.

The Gaels would not let that happen.

Led by seniors Scott Machado and Anthony Glover and Arizona transfer Momo Jones, the prolific Iona offense dropped 52 points on the Maryland defense in the second half. That threesome dominated the second half of the game after the Terps Terrell Stoglin scored the first basket of the second half to cut the lead to 37-36.

From that point it was all Iona and they crushed any hopes of a Maryland comeback.

Machado personally reminded the Terps and their fan base what it really is like to have a floor general. He put together a sterling 15 assist performance in the Gaels second round win over Western Michigan and he followed it up with a 15 point, 15 assist masterpiece against Maryland. In consecutive games he set and then tied the tournament record for assists.

The Gaels won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) last season and are overwhelming favorites to win it again this season. They are a savvy, experienced team with three big time players and enough complementary players to be a nightmare of a matchup. For my money they were the second best team in the entire tournament behind Alabama.

It certainly is no crime to lose to a team like this. What really hurts is the way the Terps lost.

Marylands 26 turnovers represented a disappointing return to what had ailed them in early practices and the exhibition game. Sophomore Mychal Parker struggled the entire game and ended with 6 himself but he had plenty of co-conspirators. Leading scorers Terrell Stoglin and Sean Mosley each had 4 as well.

Further there were issues of mental toughness and concentration against the relentless Gaels that had to leave Head Coach Mark Turgeon and his staff completely frustrated.

Turnovers against the Iona press were a part of that but things went much deeper. The usually dependable Maryland defense struggled to defend simple downscreens and one on one drives to the hoop. On the offensive end they were pushed beyond their normal spots to initiate the offense and, aside from Stoglin, missed some opportunities around the basket that would have helped their cause. They also never seemed to hit a free throw when it mattered.

From a coachs standpoint multiple turnovers, not finishing around the hoop and missed free throws are always issues of toughness, heart and character.

And there wasnt enough of it against Iona.

Turgeon had been completely sidelined on the trip with a bout of kidney stones. What he saw could not have made him feel any better. Even with that he has always known the battle that he faces with this team in the short term. He has pushed every button he possibly could. The problem is the lack of buttons.

His most formidable talent (Stoglin) was bad, great and mediocre in his three games. Mosley put together a decent three games and his improvement over last season is heartening. The assimilation of freshman Nick Faust into the point guard position had mixed results in these three days. He definitely showed flashes of being able to handle the transition but, for the most part, he looked like no more than a stop-gap until the return of PeShon Howard in a few weeks.

The Maryland interior continues to be a challenge. The rotation of Ashton Pankey, Berend Weiss and James Padgett has not quite gotten things done in the paint. This is an inexperienced threesome but they do need to begin to play better in different areas. Pankey has proven himself to be an excellent defensive rebounder but has struggled to catch passes off of penetration or on the fast break, thereby severely limiting the offensive options for himself or his team. Weiss played pretty well in stretches but his frame allows him to be pushed around the shot-blocking presence that many Maryland faithful have been hoping for has not developed. Padgett has been a solid rebounder and garbage man on the offensive end but cant seem to get any boards on the defensive end and has been taken advantage of by creative post scorers like Glover.

Maybe those post players arent getting the ball enough. Maybe too much is expected of them. Either way they have to play better and for longer stretches.

The team returns to action against Florida Gulf Coast on Friday at Comcast Center. The next game will be in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge against Illinois in College Park. There are still plenty of opportunities to improve and beat quality opponents.

They played three of them in Puerto Rico and the results were mixed. That said, we all have to remind ourselves that its November. For a young group with a new coach this time of year is all about trying to figure it all out.