- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2012

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. | The three priorities were talked about endlessly and probably scrawled on a locker room dry-erase board for emphasis, as is usually the case for the Maryland basketball team.

Execute offense. Communicate on defense. Play together.

And then Saturday’s 71-44 loss to Virginia happened at John Paul Jones Arena.

“I don’t think we did either one of them today, and that really hurt today,” guard Sean Mosley said.

No, the list of things the Terrapins (15-11, 5-7 ACC) did well was quite short.

They hit contested 3-pointers with aplomb … in the first half.

They defended everyone other than Mike Scott well … in the first half.

They played efficiently with four guards on the floor … in the first half.

With everything good, there was a caveat. And there wasn’t much good.

It was a miserable afternoon in the midst of a season when similarly lousy days were rare. And perhaps that was the most jarring part of Maryland’s latest loss.

“It’s where we are, guys,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “It’s unfortunate.”

Where the Terps are happens to be somewhere between limited and feisty, at least on most days. They have a prolific scorer in Terrell Stoglin, whose willingness to play within the confines of Turgeon’s offense tends to dwindle as Maryland’s desperation grows.

They have a frontcourt plagued with inconsistency, a four-man rotation that usually has between one and three players logging quality minutes. On Saturday, it was zero.

They have a point guard who isn’t really a point guard in freshman Nick Faust, who again is gamely filling in for injured sophomore Pe’Shon Howard (knee).

And in the middle of the conference grind, they’re back to eight recruited scholarship players. It’s hardly an ideal hand, but one not too much different than the one Turgeon started with in November.

The Terps navigated nonconference play without a glaring setback. That’s a credit both to Turgeon and the manageable schedule he inherited; of the eight nonconference home games Maryland was completely responsible for, only one was against a team with a winning record deep into February (Albany) and only one came against a current top-200 RPI team (Cornell).

All of which is to point out Saturday stood out largely because Maryland was three months removed from such a humbling outing. Yes, the Terps were drubbed in the second half at Florida State. Yes, Duke pulled away for a couple of victories in that stretch. And certainly North Carolina overwhelmed Maryland with a talent advantage in the final 10 minutes of a game earlier this month.

There still was something to build on in each of those losses. There was no solace to be taken from the visit to Virginia, if only because the Terps played perhaps their worst 20 minutes of the season.

The 13-point second half - during which Maryland scored an anemic 0.39 points per possession - stirred memories of the Terps’ pre-Thanksgiving follies in Puerto Rico. Turgeon described his team as “disinterested” in rebounding and defense.

Then again, Virginia performed well. Exceptionally well. And anyone paying attention to Maryland since the start of the season had to know there would be a few forgettable outings along the way thanks to the combination of the Terps’ depth limitations and the abilities of the more capable opponents on the schedule.

“I don’t know if it would have made a difference today, because they were a pretty determined team,” Turgeon acknowledged.

And that, really, is the place Maryland now resides, at the mercy of both a shortened rotation and talented foes. In the balance sits the Terps’ hopes for any postseason experience beyond the ACC tournament.

It is, for Turgeon and his first Maryland team, unfortunate. It’s also where they are with four regular-season games to go.

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