The chickens finally came home to roost for the Maryland Terrapins.
In spite of a spirited late-season push to the NIT semifinals in route to a 25 win season, the Terps fell to the Iowa Hawkeyes 71-60 at Madison Square Garden. The loss ended the season for a team that, six weeks ago seemed unlikely to play to mid-March, let alone the first week of April. They finished 25-13 for the year.
On display were all of the issues that plagued them for much of the season. They were done in by a fast Iowa start, poor decision making and – to some degree- foul trouble.
Most of all they were done in by turnovers.
After scoring layups on their first two possessions to take a 4-0 lead, the Terps not only stopped scoring, they didn’t even get shots. They had turnovers on their next four possessions. On the other hand, the Hawkeyes caught fire and made the most of it. They scored 11 straight points to take an 11-4 lead before Alex Len finally countered for the Terps to close the Terps to 11-6. The Hawkeyes used a 6-2 run fueled by two more Terp miscues over the next three minutes to seize control of the game at 18-8. In those critical first six minutes, Iowa guard Roy Devyn Marble had ten points.
The Terps had as many turnovers as Marble had points in the first half – ten.
In the one stretch of that first half where they did not shoot themselves in the foot, they were able to cut into the sizable Iowa lead. Once down 33-19, Maryland managed to rally in the last five minutes of the first half and used a 15-5 run over the last stretch to cut the lead to just 38-33 at the break.
With their season on the line in the second half, the Terps played hard enough to win but never smart enough to insure that would happen. Iowa ran out to a double digit lead early in the second half and Maryland made a corresponding run. Whenever the Terps would cut the lead to four or five in that second half and seem to offer hope to a sizable Maryland crowd in attendance, they would be undone on subsequent possessions by either a turnover or missed opportunity at the foul line.
Eventually Iowa kept them at arm’s length for the entire half until Hawkeye guard Eric May drained a long back-breaking three pointer with one minute remaining (and 3 seconds on the shot clock) to give his team an insurmountable 69-60 lead inside that last minute.
The Terps were led in defeat by Len and his 16 points, 9 rebounds and 6 blocks. The single biggest question of the Maryland off-season will have to do with Len’s intentions with regards to the NBA draft and it figures to be solved very quickly. Aspiring NBA players will need to declare their intention by April 10th and will have until one week later to withdraw their name from the draft.
Given the strides he has made in one short year, the talent on display right now and the promise of what his future holds the Maryland coaching staff is probably making other arrangements for that position next season.
And so it goes.
When you look at the stats for the game, it actually is remarkable that the Terps were in the conversation with just a minute to play.
The backcourt of Pe’Shon Howard, Nick Faust and Dez Wells each struggled. Howard had been great against zones all season long but never figured out how to solve the widespread Iowa zone. Faust was feast or famine. He seemed to get to the rim whenever he wanted but he didn’t finish plays when he got there and shot just 2-6 from the foul line. Wells had his worst game in a month and finished with just nine points of 4-11 shooting.
Down the stretch of the season it was this trio that really spurred on the Maryland run. When reserve guard Seth Allen was lost to a broken hand it made things pretty apparent that Terp fortunes would be dictated by the three man backcourt. Unfortunately they didn’t quite get it done on the large Garden stage.
All three should be back next season along with a group of freshmen that should be older and wiser and at least three new players – all of whom have impressive credentials.
The sting of this loss will only be felt for a day or two until the season’s accomplishments- and the program’s compelling future- will come into focus.