PHILADELPHIA | Smart, but not smart enough. Better defensively, just not quite to the level necessary. The ability to keep things curious, but not quite to the finish.
It was all heard in Maryland’s last three losses. And it was again Saturday at the Palestra, where the Terrapins suffered a 73-60 loss to Temple and lost center Alex Len to a right ankle injury in the process.
“We are who we are,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “We’re doing the same things we do every game, we’re just cutting it back a little more every game. We have to get a little bit more efficient.”
Getting Len back would help. The Ukrainian was injured after picking up his second foul of the first half and did not return. He did not come back to the bench until the second half, when ice draped his shoeless right foot. Turgeon said he was uncertain if Len would play Wednesday against Duke.
Khalif Wyatt and Ramone Moore both scored 20 points for the Owls (13-5), who defeated Maryland for the second straight season.
Terrell Stoglin scored 20 points for the Terps (12-6), including the last eight. No other Maryland player scored in the final 8:58.
That, too, is a bit of a Maryland microcosm, a repeating storyline in a season of reruns.
It’s not to say the Terps haven’t met expectations, given their undermanned roster for much of the season. It’s not to say they aren’t feisty for stretches, as was the case Saturday when they nearly erased an 11-point deficit.
But even as they get a little better, so does their opposition.
“Until we become a complete team, we’re not going to beat good teams,” Turgeon said.
It sounds all too familiar for a program that found itself in much the same place just a year ago. The one reliable offensive player and his position differed, but the close-but-not-quite results didn’t.
That bunch never quite caught up to the level it needed to reach. This year’s team showed some advancement on Saturday.
Maryland’s progress came at the defensive end, where the Terps were effective except for a pair of Temple flurries in the second half.
The Owls opened the second half with consecutive 3-pointers, then added a Juan Fernandez drive to establish a 40-29 lead. But the Terps eventually regrouped, closing within 57-56 on a Stoglin jumper at the 5:26 mark.
Temple’s response was immediate. Wyatt, Moore and Fernandez made 3-pointers in three straight trips, securing a 66-59 lead and effectively finishing off the Terps.
“They were very tough to guard,” forward James Padgett said. “We did a good job until the end when they hit three tough shots —- really tough shots —- that opened the game wide open. That was the game.”
In between those spurts —- the first because of shaky defense, the other simply because of the Owls’ sizzling shooting —- Maryland effectively utilized switches on defense to limit the troubles Temple presented, a change of pace for a team that couldn’t go that route because of limited backcourt depth early in the season.
It meant turning to a four-guard lineup, one made necessary by the Owls modest size and ability to spread out the Terps.
“It was pretty much a headache because they were all guards and it made it difficult,” Stoglin said.
That difference aside, Maryland’s script was a less aggravating version of Tuesday’s setback at Florida State.
There were defensive issues, just not as many. There was an over-reliance on Stoglin, just not quite as much. There was a stretch that doomed the Terps, just not as early nor as long.
It was, as Turgeon noted, “a heck of a game” minus a few minutes.
The outcome, though, was the same for the Terps.
“I was pissed the other night at Florida State,” Turgeon said. “Tonight, I’m not quite as mad. I think there was more will to win, more execution. We’re just not the complete team we need to be yet. We made strides.”
—- Patrick Stevens