NEW YORK — Center Sean Obi put his hands on his head and then threw them off, expressing his disbelief of the back-to-back offensive rebounds his teammates had just surrendered to Wisconsin with about a minute left in the Maryland men's basketball team's 59-54 Big Ten tournament second-round loss.
Coach Mark Turgeon also tossed his hands in the air, stomping his right foot as his players surrounded him during a timeout.
Those rebounds gave Wisconsin 12 offensive boards and two extra chances to break a 53-53 tie. After the timeout, Badgers guard Brevin Pritzl hit a jumper to give Wisconsin a 55-53 lead, enough to put the Terps away.
"When you play defense for 30 seconds, they get a rebound, and then you have to play defense for another 30 seconds," guard Kevin Huerter said, "it wears you down. It's demoralizing."
Huerter and forward Joshua Tomaic didn't have an answer for why Maryland couldn't box out the Badgers, they said. Guard Darryl Morsell said some of the struggles were due to the team's gameplan of double-teaming Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ, leaving some of his teammates free to crash the boards.
But that wasn't the case during the crucial late possession. Pritzl's missed 3-pointer led to guard Khalil Iverson's long rebound, and Happ maneuvered around forward Bruno Fernando to corral another long-range miss and again extend the possession.
"It just came down to the last play where we couldn't get a rebound," Fernando said. "That's one thing that just keeps happening to us as the season goes on. We just keep seeing way more situations like that. It's something we work on in practice every day."
Maryland entered Thursday ranked fifth in Big Ten play in rebound margin but had surrendered offensive boards in crucial situations after seeming to get stops late in close games. On Jan. 28, Michigan State sealed its 74-68 win by dominating the offensive glass, and Nebraska did the same in its 70-66 win Feb. 13.
"They just wanted it more, I guess," Tomaic said. "We were there, but they were just one second ahead."
The second-chance opportunities helped nullify Maryland's stout defense on Happ. Fernando, with the help of double teams from his teammates, held the First Team All-Big Ten forward to 14 points on 4-for-10 shooting.
But twice in the first half, Iverson corralled Happ's miss and turned it into points.
With 2:33 left in the first half, when Iverson collected the second of those rebounds and guard Dion Wiley fouled him, an exasperated Turgeon yelled, "Every time!"
Unfortunately for Turgeon, the issue only got worse. For the third time in the past three weeks, Maryland lost a must-win game in large part due to lapses the team said were a result of a lack of effort.
"They were getting on the boards; we weren't boxing out," Huerter said. "Pretty simple."