January 26, 2014

10 observations from Terps-Panthers

Maryland scratched and clawed like a team whose season was on life support on Saturday night, but it still wasn't enough to topple No. 20 Pittsburgh. The Panthers are everything Maryland isn't - tough-minded, disciplined, committed on the defensive side of the floor - and no one seemed to recognize it more than Mark Turgeon, who heaped praise on his counterparts afterwards.

"I've been doing this a long time. I've been an assistant coach and a head coach for about 26 years, and I'm telling you, that's one of the best teams I've ever coached against," Turgeon said. "How they're ranked 20th at 18-2 is an absolute joke. I think they're a Top 5 team in this country, to come into this building and really control the game."

The Panthers are undeniably impressive and do deserve to be ranked higher, but it's difficult to avoid thinking that Turgeon's hyperbole was a result of seeing a well-run team on the floor that was in stark contrast to his own. Here are 10 observations from the hard-fought but nevertheless disappointing loss for the Terps:

1. The recent shooting slump of Seth Allen continued against the Panthers, as the point guard made only 2 of his 9 attempts from the field. Allen is now shooting 31.2 percent and is 10 of 42 over his last four games since dropping 18 at Pitt on January 6, including a 25 percent clip inside the three-point line this season. Turgeon expressed some disappointment with the progression of his sophomore point guard on Friday.

2. Maryland's hot start was spoiled when Turgeon removed every starter but Jake Layman five minutes into the game. The Terps proceeded to miss 10 of their next 12 shots enabling the Panthers to grab the lead. For the game, Terps starters were a combined plus-13 while their five bench players were minus-34.

3. Turgeon's error-prone bunch committed 29 personal fouls that sent the Panthers to the charity stripe 47 times, where they made 32 free throws. Pitt cooled off late from the line, finishing at 68 percent for the night, but their early success (they drained their first 16 free throws) aided the construction of their early lead. Most egregious was Maryland's work in the screen game, where all four of their centers were called for illegal picks in the first half.

4. The Terrapins shot 48 percent against a Pitt team that ranks 13th in the country in defensive efficiency. The 79 points that Maryland put on the Panthers was the highest total they've surrendered this year. Maryland shot 35.7 percent against Jamie Dixon's squad earlier this month in Pittsburgh as Dez Wells and Layman combined for eight points (they had 38 on Saturday night).

5. Layman returned to his early season form against Pitt, totaling 18 points for his highest scoring output since he had 22 against Florida Atlantic on December 14. Most impressively, Layman finally managed to be a factor against a team that limited his looks from deep. Only three of his 18 points came from three. His previous high when he didn't hit multiple threes was 13. He entered Saturday averaging 7.8 points in the ACC and three points on 1 of 7 shooting at Pitt earlier this month.

6. One game after pulling down a career-high 18 boards against N.C. State, Charles Mitchell failed to record a rebound for the first time in his two years in College Park. The sophomore leads the ACC in offensive rebounding percentage and ranks fourth in the conference on the defensive side. He managed to score seven points in 15 minutes before fouling out, but came up empty on the glass.

7. Behind Mitchell, Maryland has been a great offensive rebounding team this season (rank 31st in the country in offensive rebounds per game and 42nd in percentage). But with their opportunistic center held at bay on Saturday, the Terps managed only six offensive boards, a number three shy of what Mitchell alone totaled against the Wolfpack on Monday.

8. As Turgeon lamented after the game, Pittsburgh converted way too many easy baskets against Maryland. The Terps' four-man center rotation - Mitchell, Shaquille Cleare, Damonte Dodd and Jonathan Graham - spent a total of 52 minutes on the floor and tallied only one block. The Panthers shot 51 percent via 25 makes, 16 of which came via layup or dunk.

9. For a 17:14 stretch on either side of halftime, the Terps made 13 of the 17 shots they attempted against Pittsburgh, yet still lost six points on the scoreboard. The Terps turned it over eight times during that middle chunk. The Panthers were also hot, shooting 12 of 18 over the same time period, but only committed four turnovers enabling them to build what became an insurmountable lead.

10. It's starting to sound like a broken record, but the playing time of the freshman Dodd was once again unpredictable. After the center played 14 effective minutes against the Wolfpack earlier in the week - he totaled six points, four rebounds and a block - Turgeon rewarded Dodd with a grand total of three on Saturday night. To be fair, Dodd was called for an illegal screen and committed a foul upon entering late in the first half, but the coach never worked up the courage to keep the freshman out there afterwards even with Pitt scoring at will around the rim.

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