TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | A year ago, Maryland’s season unraveled in part because of squandered leads - situations created by depth issues.
It could be happening again to the Terrapins.
Maryland (12-4, 1-1 ACC) frittered away a double-digit lead in the second half of Wednesday´s 62-60 loss at Miami, the second time in eight days the Terps failed to dispatch an opponent it appeared certain to throttle after 30 minutes.
The Terps sandwiched a rally from a 10-point deficit against Georgia Tech between losses to Morgan State and Miami. But a common theme connected all three games: minimal help from a thin bench.
The most recent setback - the Hurricanes outscored Maryland 22-6 in the final nine minutes to erase what had been a 17-point lead - was emblematic of the Terps’ issues. Adrian Bowie and Greivis Vasquez combined for 19 points in the second half, while the rest of their teammates managed six points.
“We just got to step up in crucial times, and it’s got to be more than one guy,” said Vasquez, whose Terps wrap up a Sunshine State swing Saturday against Florida State (14-3, 1-1). “I can’t do it by myself, and Eric Hayes can’t do it by himself, and Adrian Bowie, he cannot do it by himself. We need guys to step up, and that’s the reality.”
Trouble is, there are few obvious options.
Freshman Sean Mosley, by now the team’s unquestioned sixth man, was the only reserve to play as the Terps collapsed against Miami. And it’s not as if the reserves are performing well when afforded an opportunity; in the past three games, Maryland’s bench is averaging 5.7 points and 7.0 rebounds in 45 minutes while shooting a meager 17.1 percent (6-for-35).
The problem is not confined to an early January stretch, either. Since coach Gary Williams switched to his current lineup, a reserve has produced a double-digit performance only twice. Both times it was Mosley, who enjoyed his most prolific scoring days against Charlotte and Georgia Tech.
The tame numbers from the bench means only greater reliance on the starters, the same situation that led to troubles a year ago. As the season wore on, the starters grew wearier; when late February arrived, Maryland uncorked a series of late-game fades ultimately to fall out of NCAA tournament contention.
Weariness probably wasn’t the mitigating factor Wednesday. But with Hayes neutralized and Dave Neal struggling with his shot, Maryland was reduced to only a few viable scoring options late in the game.
“I think it’s fair to say we were tentative,” Williams said. “Adrian Bowie played great, and we got in a little bit of foul trouble that hurt us down the stretch. We need everybody playing well. We’re a team this year. We don’t have a guy who is going to consistently dominate the game.”
Everybody presumably includes backups who have struggled to produce much of late. Dino Gregory, valued for his defense, has two rebounds in 33 minutes the past three games. Both Braxton Dupree and Cliff Tucker remain in extended funks. Given his scant playing time, it is difficult to gauge the root of Tucker’s struggles.
Still, the Terps might need them all to emerge as viable options, lest the starters wilt even more as the second half of the season unfolds.
“We need some guys to come from the bench and give us some energy,” Vasquez said. “We’ve got to keep it together. Like I said, I cannot do it by myself because when you got guys looking for me, somebody else has got to step up. And you got to be consistent every game. You got to play hard every game. I think Adrian got the message. Hopefully everybody else gets the message - you got to play hard every game.”