3 TAKEAWAYS Frustration creeps in after brutal loss
IOWA CITY, Iowa — From the Maryland men’s basketball team losing to another unranked opponent to the struggles of sophomores Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala to coach Mark Turgeon’s postgame comments, here are three takeaways from the Terps’ 67-49 loss Friday night at Iowa:
The Terps didn’t take advantage of playing against another undermanned opponent. Every year since Maryland started finding its way into the Top 25 on a regular basis, there have been games when fans, media and even Turgeon came away asking the same question after a loss.
How did that happen?
It happened last month, when Seton Hall was without its two leading scorers, including senior guard Myles Powell, and the Pirates went up big early and held on for a 52-48 home win.
It happened again at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa came into the game playing without senior point guard Jordan Bohannon, who was shut down last month for the season with a hip injury, and was facing its third straight game without redshirt freshman shooting guard CJ Fredrick, who suffered a sprained ankle in a loss to Penn State in Philadelphia.
In this case, it seemed that all the Terps had to do was stop either junior center Luka Garza or sophomore wing Joe Wieskamp and they would likely win the game, possibly with ease.
Instead, Garza and Wieskamp combined for 47 of their team’s 67 points, with no other Hawkeye scoring more than seven.
Since Garza is 6 feet 11, 260 pounds and the Big Ten’s leading scorer, the obvious choice to take out was Wieskamp, who is mostly known as a spot-up 3-point shooter.
In Iowa’s first three losses this season to DePaul, San Diego State and Michigan, Wieskamp made just five of 23 shots from the field, including three of nine 3-pointers, and averaged 5.3 points.
After Maryland limited Wieskamp to just one shot — a missed 3-pointer — in the first 8½ minutes Friday, an uncontested corner 3 he made off an inbounds pass got both the 6-6, 210-pound Wieskamp and the Hawkeyes going.
“We ran a play for him and they killed it, and he just popped out to the corner and then they went to the next option defensively and he was open — a good find,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
Said Turgeon: “That was communication on that one. That was a guy missing an assignment.”
Starting with Wieskamp’s 3, Iowa scored 14 straight points in a 19-2 run that helped open a 38-24 halftime lead. Wieskamp scored 18 of his career-high 26 points in the half. He hit three straight 3-pointers, including one with 2.3 seconds left in the first half, and five of nine for the game.
Turgeon added that two of the threes in the first half came because of the attention his team was paying to Garza, who would wind up with 21 points himself.
Wieskamp was coming off a game in which he scored 21 points in a loss at Nebraska on Tuesday, but missed nine of the 10 3-pointers he tried.
Asked if the first 3 was the catalyst for his performance, Wieskamp said: “It definitely helped me get going. Missing nine 3’s in a game can affect someone’s confidence, but my teammates and coaches did a great job of telling me to continue to shoot.”
Ayala and Wiggins are in the midst of a sophomore slump. As freshmen last season, Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins played major roles in Maryland’s 23-11 record and return to the NCAA tournament after a year’s absence.
Ayala was the biggest revelation, particularly as a 3-point shooter and ball handler to take the pressure off Anthony Cowan Jr.
Until a late-season shooting slump, Ayala was the team’s best 3-point shooter. Wiggins, who spent most of the season in a sixth-man role, led the Terps in 3-point shooting.
With their roles reversed, since Ayala is now coming off the bench, both have struggled, particularly on offense. After each shot over 40% on 3-pointers last season, Wiggins is down to 28.7% and Ayala is at 24.7%. They were a combined 0-for-5 against the Hawkeyes from 3-point range, and 0-for-10 overall.
After Wiggins stepped out of bounds on Maryland’s first possession of the game for the first of his three turnovers, Turgeon quickly pulled him from the game. Ayala nearly gave up the ball on his first play, then wound up with four of his team’s 17 turnovers.
Wiggins, who had been averaging a little over 10 points in a little over 30 minutes a game, went scoreless for the first time in his college career in a season-low 17 minutes. Ayala, who is averaging just under 10 points, finished with just two — on a pair of free throws — in 28 minutes.
“Eric’s made a lot of big shots for us. Tonight he didn’t,” Turgeon said. “We have some guys that are really good players that need to act like they’re really good players and play like it. Tonight we didn’t. I’m not going to single one guy out. We didn’t look like us.”
Turgeon’s frustration continues to grow. Early on in his nine-year tenure at Maryland, Turgeon would often call out some of his players after games for their poor effort. While the media enjoyed his honesty, some fans thought he should have taken more of the blame himself.
Turgeon has often done that in recent years, but this team’s lackadaisical approach in several games appears to be eating at him. Some thought things had changed with the departure of the Mitchell twins following the Seton Hall loss, but the performance against the Hawkeyes was even more pitiful.
“We were bad. We stunk,” Turgeon said. “I’ve been doing this a long time and that ranks up there as one of the worst [games] my teams have ever played. We did good cop-bad cop, we tried everything. We couldn’t get them motivated. We came off two really good wins, we played well. I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t expect this. You have one night a year where you don’t play well, but at least you compete.”
Asked what needs to change for the Terps not to repeat this effort going forward, Turgeon said: “I don’t know. If I had an answer, I would have changed it already.”
Turgeon said that he had hint of trouble at practice Thursday, but he seemed to ignore it.
“We were terrible in practice yesterday. They didn’t respond to my voice at all in practice,” he said. “They made up their mind, ‘Maybe we’re pretty good.’ Hopefully tonight humbles us and we get back to listening to the coach. I think our whole thing is playing with confidence and sharing the basketball better. I think that’s really a big part of moving forward.”
Turgeon has always been hesitant about getting in his players’ faces, as coaches such as McCaffery and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo often do. McCaffery’s technical foul, called after Cowan was fouled on a 3-point shot, coincided with his team’s comeback, something Turgeon’s technical did against LSU in the NCAA tournament.
It’s doubtful that Turgeon will change his approach at this stage of his career, but after another performance like the one the Terps gave Friday, he just might.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon watches during the first half against Iowa on Friday in Iowa City. The No. 12Terrapins fell behind by 14 points at halftime and never recovered.