Maryland men's basketball trailed Illinois by one point Sunday with 44 seconds remaining when guard Kevin Huerter thought he'd dribbled past Illini guard Te'Jon Lucas at midcourt.
Lucas, though, had remained half a step behind. When Huerter switched his dribble to his right hand, Lucas swiped the ball away, pushing Maryland to 25 turnovers on the game.
It was a season high in giveaways for a team that's struggled taking care of the ball in nearly every contest this season. The Terps average 17 turnovers per game, tied for 331st in the country. Only 14 teams have a worse turnover margin.
Coach Mark Turgeon, however, believes Maryland's turnover issues are largely a product of the Terps' early-season schedule and are not necessarily a sign of the future. Maryland hopes to limit its turnovers when it begins a stretch of five straight nonconference home games Thursday against Ohio.
"Sunday's game had a lot to do with the environment and who we were playing," Turgeon said. "But there are a lot of correctable ones."
Turgeon's theory on Sunday's miscues is backed up by the Illini's performance. Down the stretch, both team's offensive showings dipped to near-comical levels. Just after Lucas' steal, he attempted an alley-oop that sailed well over the arms of two of his teammates as they crashed together and fell to the floor.
With under five seconds left and the game nearly in hand, Illini guard Da'Monte Williams airmailed an inbounds pass down the entire length of the court and out of bounds. The teams combined for six points and nine turnovers over the final two minutes of regulation.
"Sometimes, we get going too fast," Turgeon said. "It's the environment and who we're playing, the length of somebody's zone [defense] or the speed and quickness of the other team."
Turgeon's teams often struggle against zone defenses, and those schemes this year have amplified Maryland's turnovers.
"We've played so many crazy defenses," Turgeon said. "We haven't really been able to settle in. Purdue played straight [man-to-man], and we only had seven turnovers."
Indeed, Maryland's sloppy performance against Illinois came just two days after its cleanest game of the season. The Terps gave the ball away at least 12 times in every game until they had just seven in their loss to the Boilermakers.
Going forward, Turgeon expects more steady performances against teams that play more man-to-man defenses, rather than the 20-plus turnover showings fans have grown accustomed to early this season.