The Maryland men's basketball team's 11-7 lead at the first media timeout Tuesday night prompted Pittsburgh coach Kevin Stallings to make a defensive switch. The Terps carved their man-to-man defense to start the game, so the Panthers came out of the break in a 3-2 zone.
What followed were long possessions that often ended in Maryland's missed 3-pointers. The Terps became stagnant on offense, and Pittsburgh took control of the game, finishing the half on a 38-13 run. The Panthers didn't shoot almost 70 percent like they did in the first period, but they held on in the second for a 73-59 win, thanks to Maryland's inability to combat the zone.
Yet as coach Mark Turgeon spoke after the Terps' first loss of the season, he welcomed opponents to replicate Pittsburgh's defensive scheme.
"No, no. Please zone us. Please zone us," Turgeon responded when a reporter asked if the Terps' zone offense concerns him for the future. "We're going to make shots. We're going to be great against the zone. I was thrilled when they went zone. Zone us. We're going to be good. We just weren't good tonight."
Guard Melo Trimble said Turgeon has told his team to be ready for zone defenses before games. In many instances, their opponents played man-to-man, but Pittsburgh packed the paint and dared Maryland to hit perimeter shots.
The Terps entered the game shooting 31.3 percent from deep, which dipped after going 10-for-26 (27.8 percent) against the Panthers, and Maryland finished with their lowest scoring total while attempting its highest number of 3-pointer. Still, the players insisted both of those numbers would have been different had they converted what Trimble called "a lot of wide-open looks."
"We got to take them," Trimble said. "We're all good shooters. I mean, we haven't been shooting the ball well, but I know we're going to start shooting well."
Trimble made two of his eight three-point shots to finish with 13 points. But Trimble is one of the Big Ten's premiere players in traffic, so the Panthers wanted to keep the Upper Marlboro native out of the lane.
The Panthers failed to accomplish that in man-to-man. With the shot clock winding down early in the game, the 6-foot-3 guard slashed into the lane, which forced a Panthers defender to shift for help. Trimble then hit Jackson in the right corner for a wide-open three, the Terps' third in four attempts.
But Trimble's strategy proved ineffective after Pittsburgh switched to zone, which kept two defenders near the rim throughout the game. When Trimble attempted another drive, similar to the one he made a few minutes earlier, Pittsburgh stripped the junior and converted a transition dunk.
"It took away from Trimble having the ability to do pick-and-rolls and one-on-ones and getting into the lane," said Panthers forward Michael Young, who finished with 25 points. "He did it a few times, but with the zone he was able to see more bodies."
With Trimble unable to penetrate, Turgeon pushed for the Terps to play "inside out," a strategy in which they would pass to a frontcourt player at the foul line with the hopes he could find teammates down low for layups or kick the ball out for open jumpers. Maryland executed the plan, Turgeon said, to find quality looks.
He also emphasized creating second chances against the zone via offensive rebounds, but he wasn't pleased with his team's performance, despite holding an 11-6 advantage in that category.
The Terps instead attributed its lack of offensive production to their shooting woes. Trimble said they have to shoot with more confidence. Forward Damonte Dodd echoed that sentiment. When the outside attempts clanged off the rim, he encouraged his teammates to keep shooting.
"I felt like if we hit shots," Trimble said, "it would be a different game."