NEW YORK — Throughout Maryland men's basketball's worst season since 2013-14, a growing contingent of Terps fans criticized coach Mark Turgeon.
At halftime of Maryland's home finale, the Xfinity Center crowd booed the team off the court. Fans heckled Turgeon's squad throughout its second-round loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament. Social media was ablaze with calls for Turgeon's job.
But after the team's 59-54 loss to the Badgers, clinched by poor rebounding and a miscommunication on a late inbound play, guards Kevin Huerter and Darryl Morsell — unprompted by any particular question by the media — defended their head coach.
"He's taken a lot of heat for us, and it's really not his fault," Morsell said. "We didn't get two box outs at the end. That's not his fault. That's us on the court."
It's an explanation unlikely to appease fans who say Turgeon fails to get the most out of the talent he recruits. The Big Ten tournament exit marked the team's fourth consecutive postseason loss.
When discussing Wisconsin's 12 offensive rebounds, Morsell and forward Joshua Tomaic said the Badgers wanted it more. However, subpar play on the boards emerged in multiple must-win games down the stretch this season.
"[A] similar thing happened that's been happening all year," Huerter said. "Everybody is going to point to [Turgeon]; everyone's going to look at him. … But Coach Turgeon doesn't miss rebounds; Coach Turgeon doesn't miss a free throw."
All signs point to Maryland missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years. The Terps entered this season with cautiously optimistic expectations, fueled by the return of three sophomores who starred in their rookie campaigns.
Huerter and guard Anthony Cowan both performed well, but forward Justin Jackson struggled early before electing to undergo surgery on his torn labrum, missing the rest of the season. The Terps couldn't recover and struggled against a Big Ten schedule Turgeon often bemoaned.
This season, Maryland's marquee win was a 79-65 defeat of Butler on Nov. 15 at Xfinity Center. The Terps suffered their worst loss (91-61 at Michigan State) of Turgeon's tenure and their worst home loss (85-61 to Michigan) since Jan. 3, 1998. Maryland won just two road games all season.
"Coach Turgeon doesn't execute plays when we're supposed to execute plays that we practiced multiple times. That's all on the players," Huerter said. "So everybody can say what they want about him. But we didn't make plays for him."