A flustered Mark Turgeon walked away from Maryland’s final contest before a break for final exams unwilling to give his team a fully passing grade.
The Terrapins defended well, as they have for much of the season.
And they dealt with turnovers, a common refrain in the first 10 games.
“We worked really hard on turnovers, so don’t ask the question,” Turgeon said. “We worked really hard on it and I’m disappointed. … We just weren’t mentally into the game. The second half was better.”
It was good enough for Maryland to cruise 71-38 over Monmouth at Comcast Center on Wednesday, the Terps’ best defensive performance since holding UMES to 38 points in a rout on Jan. 6, 2004.
And so it’s come to this for the Maryland (9-1), which rolled to its ninth consecutive victory. The time before league play grows ever shorter, the opportunity to fine-tune things slips away and Turgeon is left hoping a calamity isn’t around the corner.
“It was on us tonight,” guard Nick Faust said. “We knew we could have played a lot better.”
In truth, an extended meltdown seems unlikely, if only because Maryland is so deep it can withstand instability from a few players on a given night.
It got it from nearly all corners against the Hawks (5-6), to the point Turgeon wondered just who he would trot out to start the second half after the Terps bumbled into 14 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
There was Dez Wells and … not many solid options. He settled for four-fifths of his starting five, plus scout teamer John Auslander in place of senior James Padgett.
“I can say he wasn’t happy,” Wells said of his coach.
In one light, it is striking just how far Maryland has come since this time last year, when it was still without Pe’Shon Howard and Alex Len and could only dream of steamrolling an opponent.
Nonetheless, it is also an example of how great Turgeon’s expectations are even as he attempts to depress a surplus of praise heaped upon his team in the season’s early stages.
Effectively one-third of the way through the regular season, Maryland has its longest single-season winning streak since it collected 13 consecutive victories before an ACC tournament loss in 2001-02. How much the current streak is worth is debatable; little on the Terps’ resume to date is likely to prove vital for postseason purposes come March.
Turgeon, nonetheless, has an eye on what is still to come, and what he saw after Maryland bolted to an 11-2 lead wasn’t pleasant.
Sloppiness crept up everywhere, with freshman guard Seth Allen committing seven turnovers. Freshman Jake Layman didn’t play in the first half after failing to fulfill academic responsibilities. Forwards Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell offered little.
The starters weren’t much sharper, until a strong spurt to open the second half to put Monmouth away.
“We didn’t come out like our usual selves,” Wells said. “It was a learning experience for us. We’re a young team and we have to learn from us. This can’t happen again.”
Much of the coming two weeks will be dedicated to ensuring it doesn’t. There will be exams and trips home for Christmas, and only one game in a 16-day stretch.
That’s plenty of time for Maryland to earn a passing grade —- except it will be done on Turgeon’s terms after Wednesday’s lethargic outing.
“We just weren’t ready, and that’s what it comes down to,” Turgeon said. “It’s good for me, because I get a lot of time to practice now, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
—- Patrick Stevens