Make no mistake, the Maryland men’s basketball team is overachieving so far this season.
At 20-3, the Terps are shocking everybody. They lost four starters from last year’s team, and still they continue to win. However, against Purdue, some of that good mojo came undone.
The Terps returned to ways of old down the stretch as they fell to the Boilermakers, 73-72. Despite actually shooting better than the Boilermakers (40 percent vs. 38 percent), the Terps didn’t make a field goal in the final 7:37 of the game. For a team that shot lights out over a seven-game winning streak, it was a sad reappearance of something that has plagued them.
Final: Purdue 73, Maryland 72. Terps go the final 7:37 without a field goal.
— Roman Stubbs (@romanstubbs) February 4, 2017
In that nearly eight minutes of play without a field goal, the Terps missed four three pointers. They settled for shots instead of penetrating the Boilermaker defense, something that worked for the entirety of the game. Even as the 17th-ranked team, that won’t fly against No. 23 in Purdue.
The reason the Terps were ranked so low with just two losses is in part because of their lousy schedule, but also due to inability to crush lesser opponents. Too often, the Terps find themselves in close games with bad teams—American, Towson, Richmond, the list goes on—and it put a dent in their résumé. Now, with a chance to gain some credibility against a strong Purdue team and a conference foe, they couldn’t close.
The Terps need to establish more consistency in their play. When something is working, it’s really working for them. However, at the slightest sign of something going wrong, the Terps revert back to chucking up ill-advised jumpers. Melo Trimble has yet to find his shooting touch on a consistent basis. Anthony Cowan has been horrendous from three (15-56, 27 percent). Jared Nickens is better, but still not a spark plug who can make big shots off the bench. When they rely on these guys to put the ball in the basket, no matter how hot Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson (39 and 46 percent from three, respectively) are, falling back on that game plan isn’t sustainable.
The Terps are lucky to face one of the Big Ten’s lower opponents in Penn State on Tuesday night, but they’ve got No. 7 Wisconsin in just a couple of weeks. If they can’t pick up the pieces of their breakdown against Purdue, perhaps this Maryland team has seen its good luck run out.