Sunday night’s matchup at Florida State was going to be a tough task for the Terrapins men’s basketball team no matter the circumstances. The Terps have struggled notoriously on the road under coach Mark Turgeon, and the Terps’ lone win at the Seminoles in the past 10 years came in 2010.
So a loss at the Donald L. Tucker Center wouldn’t be a complete upset.
But it seems logical to say that no one expected the Seminoles to absolutely blitz the Terps like they did Sunday. Behind 66.7 percent shooting from three-point range, Florida State dropped the Terps, 85-61.
There’s still too much time to bury the Terps or even put them on life support, but it’s getting close. Any optimism left after a rocky start to the season could be fading fast.
Combined with the Terps’ 79-59 loss at Pittsburgh six days before, it’s the first time since the 2008-09 season the Terps have dropped back-to-back games by at least 20 points. On Nov. 28, 2008, the Terps fell to No. 9 Gonzaga, 81-59, at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla. Two days later, No. 21 Georgetown routed the Terps, 75-48. Those losses came after the Terps opened their time in Florida with an 80-62 upset win over No. 5 Michigan State.
The Terps hadn’t suffered back-to-back ACC losses by 20-plus points since Jan. 14 and Jan. 19, 1963, when the Terps dropped a 78-56 matchup at home against North Carolina and a 79-59 contest at N.C. State. The Terps had never lost consecutive ACC road games by 20 points, either.
While Florida State presented a tough task for the Terps in Tallahassee, Fla., the Terps had a feasible opportunity to rebound. Their performance down the stretch against Pitt was atrocious, shooting 28.9 percent in the second half as the Panthers pulled away.
And despite a somewhat sloppy start Sunday, the Terps trailed by only two more than midway through the first half. But that’s where Florida State took off, and that’s where the Terps faltered. The Seminoles’ lead would stretch to as many as 30 down the stretch before settling at its final 24.
Now, every team the Terps play isn’t going to shoot almost 40 percentage points better than it does on the average night to break a game wide open. The Terps did muster some positives with their 34 free-throw attempts to Florida State’s 23. And the teams finished tied in the rebounding department with 34.
But there were more than a few concerning trends that carried over from the Pitt loss and beyond, starting with turnovers (15), lack of assists (nine) and three-point shooting (3-of-18).
Forward Evan Smotrycz scored nine points on 3-of-11 shooting Sunday night and was just 1-of-6 from deep. Since the second half of the Pitt game, Smotrycz is 4-of-20 and 2-of-14 from three-point range. One of the Terps’ most consistent performers early on, the Michigan transfer has struggled as of late.
While Smotrycz has struggled, forward Jake Layman has all but disappeared. While the sophomore scored 11 points at Florida State to reach double figures for the first time since Dec. 29 against Tulsa, it was still a quiet 11 points, as he shot 3-of-8 from the field and 0-of-2 from three-point range. Turgeon has remarked that teams have keyed on Layman because of his early season success, but even when Layman was involved Sunday, he appeared tentative, as he was blocked at the rim and missed one wide three-point attempt from the wing.
The inability of Smotrycz and Layman to score consistently and stretch defenses allows opponents to key on the post, which Florida State did to hold the Terps’ bigs to a combined four points. Center Shaquille Cleare and forward Charles Mitchell were invisible yet again.
Even guard Seth Allen, who scored 18 points last Monday, was a nonfactor. The sophomore, in his fifth game back from a broken foot, scored one point and missed all eight of his shots from the field.
All in all, it was a second straight forgettable performance from the Terps.
The Terps return home to Comcast Center on Wednesday to take on a Notre Dame team that, like the rest of the ACC, has endured its share of ups and downs this season. Like it’s too early to count the Terps out of making a postseason run, it’s still too early to ascribe any game with “must-win” status.
But after two weak showings, Wednesday’s game could take on an even greater importance, as the Terps try to stop the bleeding from two road trouncings.