CORAL GABLES, Fla. --- Maryland's latest miserable trip to Miami was complete, another loss in a house of horrors the Terrapins won't miss in the slightest when they depart the ACC.
Only this wasn't one of those head-scratching nights Maryland has so effectively produced in game after game in sunny South Florida.
No, Sunday's 54-47 loss to Miami was easy to comprehend. Maryland's offense was inert, just as it was in the second half of Wednesday's home setback against Florida State.
Little movement. Shaky decisions. Poor shooting. And precious few answers for how to improve in a hurry.
"We’re trying things," coach Mark Turgeon said. "We have to remember where we were and where we are today. I know we came in here and played these guys tough and all that, but we’re a young basketball team and a whole new basketball team, our veterans are our sophomores. We’re going to have to go through some stuff. It’s no fun. We’re going through it."
Oh, are they ever.
Maryland (13-3, 1-2 ACC) has dropped two straight. Over its next four games, it will face conference co-leader N.C. State at Comcast Center and trek to traditional heavyweights North Carolina and Duke.
Whatever the Terps are going through, their struggles could easily continue for some time.
There is no easy fix, however clear some of Maryland's flaws are. A change in the starting point guard didn't matter; neither Seth Allen nor Pe'Shon Howard distinguished themselves against a feisty Miami backcourt.
In truth, hardly anyone distinguished themselves. Sophomore Dez Wells offered a strong all-around game, but even he made some head-scratching decisions at inopportune times. Center Alex Len might have played his worst five minutes of the season in the early going, then recovered to produce 16 points and nine rebounds.
And that was about it. Maryland's offense stalled on possession after possession. The Terps were stuck on five points for almost five minutes. Later, after pulling within 32-29 of the Hurricanes (12-3, 3-0), it took more than five minutes to complete the epic quest for 30 points.
"We’re playing really good defense, but we have to improve our offense," Len said. "We just don’t play smart enough and we had to be tougher when we execute and set good screens and be tough with the ball and just make smarter decisions and easy plays."
Oh, easy plays, suddenly an endangered species for these Terps. Maryland's grinding, halting attempts to run plays have produced little over the last two games, and for that Florida State and Miami both warrant some credit.
But so does a wandering offense, one with so little fluidity as Turgeon desperately tries to find a combination that works.
For two games, he hasn't come upon one.
"We’re definitely not taking steps back," Turgeon said. "I know it may not look that way because the last three halves we haven’t made shots. We’re trying things. We played a small lineup a lot."
Trying is one thing. Succeeding is another. And little in the last week suggests Maryland is prepared to score enough to handle facing a capable team.
That could change in an instant, of course. Maybe Allen or Howard asserts himself as a stabilizing point guard. Maybe Len goes through a full game with an assertive approach rather than reverting to the finesse game he brought with him from Europe. Maybe sophomore Nick Faust opts to embrace a role as a penetrator rather than hoisting ill-advised jump shots.
All around the BankUnited Center, though, there were questionable choices up and down the rotation as trip after trip went to waste.
"That’s the next step for us, our decision-making," Wells said.
Turgeon offered a veiled threat to begin walking the ball up the court and, really, who could blame him at this point? Then again, there is the matter of actually running a smooth offense.
And so the Terps face a conundrum, one in the here and now rather than with the cacophonous background noise of postseason implications. It's a tick early for such rabble-rousing, for a season is a tricky thing, and this one reached its middle at the conclusion of a wretched 14-point first half Sunday.
These Terps are still not defined, though their offensive issues of late require scrutiny. They could prove quite fixable, and this trip to a building not far from the shores of Biscayne Bay that inspires no fun memories for Maryland.
Or this could be the warning shot of misery to come, something Turgeon certainly isn't buying with 15 conference games to play.
"We’re going to be all right," Turgeon said. "I don’t know when, but we’re going to be all right. We have a lot of young kids and the ones that are helping us the most are sophomores and freshmen. It’s a pretty good feeling. We’ll get better."
How much and how soon, though, will surely determine just where this season meanders from its midpoint.
--- Patrick Stevens