CORAL GABLES, Fla. —- The years change. The results when Maryland visits Miami never do.
As March arrived for the Terrapins, so too did an increasing sense of their postseason destination. At few points in the Wednesday’s 80-66 loss before hundreds at BankUnited Center did Maryland seem capable of asserting control.
The result was a second straight loss, a fourth setback in six games and continued misery in one of the ACC’s smallest arenas.
Yes, the Hurricanes got a season-high 19 points from freshman Rion Brown and a career-best 16 rebounds from space-eating center Reggie Johnson.
But the Terps (18-12, 7-8 ACC) did their part to secure their result, falling behind by 13 at the break and 17 early in the second half before a rally fizzled out after they pulled within 55-50.
“We’re just not getting the job done,” senior guard Adrian Bowie said. “That’s what it all comes down to. It’s all about winning and we’re not winning.”
Terrell Stoglin scored 20 points for Maryland, who can finish no better than sixth and could tumble into the ACC tournament-opening 8-9 game with a loss Saturday to Virginia.
The Terps’ final two-game road swing in conference play possessed the chance for them to improve their profile and perhaps even collect a signature victory. That opportunity came and went when they simply got outplayed by a talented North Carolina outfit on Sunday.
Then it happened against against the Hurricanes (18-12, 6-9), only in far less respectable fashion.
“They earned the game,” coach Gary Williams said. “There was nothing out there that was a fluke about that game. They played better than we did in every area.”
For all of Maryland’s close-but-not-quite encounters earlier in the season, it at least held onto the notion it was getting better and could take something —- anything —- for future use.
In a way, Wednesday provided something: A how-to guide on precisely what not to do if the Terps are to salvage their season in the ACC tournament.
And that, if it wasn’t already obvious, is what Maryland is tasked with. A dozen losses, the latest arguably the ugliest and most irredeemable of them all, ensured the Terps entered March like a lamb and with little time to change course.
“It’s very disappointing because Maryland has a tradition of winning and this year we’re just not living up to it,” Stoglin said.
Stoglin, as Williams points out on a fairly regular basis, won an Arizona state title as a senior and led his high school to four state finals. In many ways, the losses are far more new to the potent scorer than the grind of a college season.
Miserable as the setbacks are, he knew precisely at what point Maryland was in trouble.
“When they made their first run and we didn’t attack them,” Stoglin said. “We didn’t come back at them.”
The frustration of Maryland’s inertia, its inability to gain traction at any stage this season, showed itself a bit more on Wednesday. Stoglin, who authored his fourth 20-point outing in five games, acknowledged as much. Bowie, whose college career is nearing its end, was clearly vexed at this particular turn in his senior year.
About the only voice publicly blocking out annoyance with the current conditions is the man who has seen a lot in three decades as a head coach.
“They’ve gone pretty well if you look at … We have a chance to be .500 in the league,” Williams said. “We struggled early this year and got a little better, I thought. We just had bad game tonight, that’s for sure.”
No one inside or outside of Maryland’s locker room can quibble with the last part of Williams’ assessment. Preventing a rerun is about all the Terps can do.
Stoglin, for one, has a decent idea where to start.
“We have to want to win,” Stoglin said. “If everybody’s not on the same page, we’re not going to win.”
If the Terps ever need proof, they need only look at Wednesday’s washout for a reminder.
—- Patrick Stevens