Saturday, February 27, 2021

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Terps make flimsy March statement in 80-66 loss at Miami

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Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke Jones is the Ravens and Orioles beat reporter for WNST BaltimorePositive.com and is a PFWA member. His mind is consumed with useless sports knowledge, pro wrestler promos, and movie quotes, but he struggles to remember where he put his phone. Luke's favorite sports memories include being one of the thousands of kids who waited to get Cal Ripken's autograph after Orioles games in the summer of 1995, attending the Super Bowl XXXV victory parade with his father in the pouring rain, and watching the Terps advance to the Final Four at the Carrier Dome in 2002. Follow him on Twitter @BaltimoreLuke or email him at Luke@wnst.net.

Depending on how you viewed Maryland’s remote NCAA tournament hopes entering Wednesday night’s game at Miami, it might not have mattered how the Terps fared against the Hurricanes.

If they needed to win the ACC tournament to secure an invitation to the field of 68, the outcome in the penultimate game of the regular season wouldn’t have changed anything on paper, right?

Following a 80-66 drubbing in Coral Gables, the Terps played as though they had similar thoughts in mind. Maryland looked every bit the part of a team with little to play for and after Malcolm Grant’s 3-pointer put the Hurricanes ahead 14-12 with 13:17 remaining in the first half, the Terps trailed the rest of the way.

Instead of beating a mediocre Miami squad to declare they would be a difficult out in Greensboro next week, the Terps (18-12, 7-8 ACC) made a different statement entirely by turning in their weakest performance of the season. Their blowout loss at home to Virginia Tech in January was brutal, but at least the Hokies appear on their way to the NCAA tournament — though a home loss to Boston College Tuesday made that less of a certainty for Seth Greenberg’s squad.

Sunday’s road loss to North Carolina was disappointing, but expected. Laying an egg at Miami — where the Terps are now 0-5 since the Hurricanes joined the ACC in 2005 — is simply inexcusable.

And it’s just the latest piece of evidence revealing why this team isn’t even in the neighborhood of the tournament bubble with Selection Sunday less than two weeks away.

Middle-of-the-road teams in a lackluster ACC just aren’t worthy of an invite to the Big Dance.

Perhaps the most humbling part of the Terps’ defeat to Miami is that the Hurricanes (18-12, 6-9 ACC) actually held a higher RPI (69th, according to RealTimeRPI.com) than Maryland (85th) entering the night. The number is far from a perfect metric, but it screams just how unimpressive the Terps’ postseason profile really is.

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Maryland’s defeat to the Hurricanes was far less about the final stats than it was about the lack of effort and urgency for a team playing its first game in March.

If you watched the Terps sleepwalk through the first half, you saw the lethargic body language. Gary Williams even substituted in freshman Mychal Parker — who had played a mere 10 minutes in conference play — before halftime to see if the gifted athlete could provide a spark.

After the Maryland coach undoubtedly roared at his sleepy team at halftime, the Terps responded on their first defensive trip down the floor by surrendering an offensive rebound and layup to Miami big man Reggie Johnson with four Maryland players in the paint.

A microcosm of a forgettable night.

Ironically, the Terps shot an impressive 9-for-18 from beyond the arc — an impressive clip for a team that’s struggled from the perimeter all season — but they negated the long-range success by shooting an abysmal 27 percent from 2-point range. Freshman Terrell Stoglin again led the Terps with 20 points, but had little working behind him, including a nightmarish 3-for-17 performance by Jordan Williams (11 points, 12 rebounds).

Miami thumped the Maryland defense, be it man-to-man or zone, by shooting nearly 55 percent from the field and making 12 of 23 attempts from 3-point range. Five Hurricanes reached double-digit scoring, led by Rion Brown’s 19 points off the pine.

In contrast, the Terps received a measly seven points from the bench, an area where the Terps have often received new life with Gary Williams’ revolving-door starting lineups this season.

After trailing by 13 at intermission, Maryland made its predictable second-half run, cutting the deficit to 50-45 after a Sean Mosley layup with 14:06 to play, but the Terps never got any closer after that 15-3 run, wilting again as Miami seized control down the stretch.

With only a chance to finish at .500 in the conference with a win over Virginia on Saturday, we can now lay to rest the unrealistic scenarios that were still being discussed by some — many of them not based in reality — about Maryland earning an at-large bid. Anything short of an ACC tournament championship will land the Terps in the NIT.

Maryland will need to win four straight against in four days. The Terps haven’t won four in a row all season and won three straight conference games only once.

Stranger things have happened, but if their statement against Miami was any predictor, the Terps’ stay in Greensboro won’t be a long one.

They looked like a team resigned to its fate.

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