ATLANTA —- Maryland has lost three straight games entering the ACC tournament, and no player has struggled more in that stretch than Ashton Pankey.
The redshirt freshman has not scored since Feb. 21, missing 11 field goals and four free throws in the Terrapins’ final three games.
Pankey hasn’t reached double figures in scoring since Dec. 23, though he was a fixture in the starting lineup for most of February.
“It’s been rough,” Pankey said. “I haven’t really been hitting the shots I was usually been hitting at the beginning of the year. I was kind of feeling like I hit that wall a little bit. I haven’t played in two years and now I’m playing major minutes. I was starting games and going against tough competition —- the [John] Hensons, the [Tyler] Zellers, that sort of thing. It’s been rough for me, but it’s definitely a learning experience. I just have to keep my head right and stay positive because when you’re not playing well, everything starts to go bad. You just have to be tough enough to fight through that.”
He fouled out after eight minutes of work against North Carolina, then played only six first-half minutes against Virginia. But perhaps the most humbling day of the bunch was an 0-for-8 shooting outing against Georgia Tech on Feb. 25 —- the same site as the ACC tournament.
“I’m looking at the stats and I’m 0-for-8 and it’s basically all layups, a couple jump shots, and it’s shots I usually hit,” Pankey said. “At practice, I make them and I work on them all the time. …
“I know I’m way better than this, and that’s why it’s so frustrating.”
Whether that changes this weekend in Atlanta —- starting with Thursday’s first round date with Wake Forest —- remains to be seen. But Pankey knows he needs to be resilient to move past his struggles.
“I haven’t been hitting anything and it’s been hard because then my teammates lose confidence in me and I lose confidence in myself,” Pankey said. “I just have to have the ability to fight through this and get my swagger back.”
—- Patrick Stevens