You hear it all the time, often in response to a question about what went wrong. Why, it was the execution, comes the reply.
Of course it was.
"Execution" was the buzzword Sunday night after Maryland's 54-47 loss at Miami, and while it was good the Terrapins acknowledged the obvious, it was a little short on specifics.
Fortunately, Dez Wells cleared up a little bit of the confusion Tuesday.
"We just can't make a freaking shot," Wells said. "We cannot make a shot at all. We're playing really, really good defense. We suck right now shooting. We can't make a shot. There's no way around it. It is what it is. We can't make a shot. There's a lid. On. The cylinder. We can't make a shot."
It's tough to disagree with Wells, especially for anyone who sat through Sunday's loss in person. But it wasn't all just shaky shooting, even if it played a significant role.
There was shoddy point guard play, poor decisions, lackluster screens and more. Coach Mark Turgeon offered up a variety of complications, starting with improved competition over what the Terps faced during a 13-game winning streak.
He also suggested lost confidence (for those who wish to make a big deal of that) and less togetherness (probably a greater factor, especially Sunday), which could conspire to get players to try to do more on their own.
Whatever the reason, Turgeon watched each offensive possession from Sunday's game with the Terps and allowed the players to grade it.
"Probably 40 percent of the time, it was a good possession," Turgeon said. "Whether it was not screening or not hitting an open man or shooting too quick, 40 percent isn’t going to get it done. I wasn’t talking about whether we made a shot or not. We could run it right and miss a shot and we’d count it as a good possession. We have to get that number up around 85 or 90 percent of the time and then you have a chance."
The last two games --- 60 minutes, really, since Maryland played well in the first half of a loss to Florida State --- have marked the roughest stretch of the season to date. Frankly, there's not much of a comparison for it.
The Terps cruised through a generally soft nonconference schedule designed for a weaker team, then hammered a Virginia Team bunch that paid scant attention to defense on Jan. 5.
"That might have given us a false sense of the type of competition we were playing going farther into the season," guard Logan Aronhalt said. "We just have to get back to playing within ourselves."
Perhaps a shift of Nick Faust to the point --- something that will happen to some degree Wednesday when Maryland (13-3, 1-2 ACC) plays host to N.C. State (14-2, 3-0) --- will help. That will move Seth Allen to the wing, where he can provide a scoring punch rather than worry about ball-handling.
Coaches so often say an offense looks much better when shots fall. While that probably isn't the only problem facing the Terps, it surely is one of them.
"We’re getting decent looks," Wells said. "We can get better. We can pass the ball a lot better. I have to cut down on the turnovers that I’m having. I think we can get a lot better shots than what we’re getting currently in our offense. That’s on us as players. Coach Turgeon can give us the formula, but we have to go out there and [put it to use]."
Maybe, just maybe, that execution will turn out to be a bit sharper Wednesday than it was the last two games. Turgeon certainly hopes so.
"We’ll keep plugging. We have good players," Turgeon said. "We’re going through some stuff right now, which I as a coach knew was coming at some point. It’s how we handle it."
--- Patrick Stevens