CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. --- It would be only too easy to rummage around the Big Bag of Sportswriters' Cliches to explain Maryland's stumble Tuesday night at Boston College, a nifty bow to wrap around a 69-58 loss just three days after the Terrapins' most riveting performance.
It will be called a letdown performance, a trap game or whatever trite description folks might care to summon.
Here's what it really is: A reflection of what Maryland truly is in a season defined by its chronic inconsistency.
How does Maryland invigorate its NCAA tournament hopes one night and then wander aimlessly in the second half against a sub-.500 Boston College bunch?
The Terps were not a team in stupor because of their inability to handle prosperity. They were in a stupor because they are erratic, an unpredictable collection of players, an identity showing no signs of abating.
"No one wants to be that way but I don’t know what it’s a product of or what makes us that way," guard Logan Aronhalt said. "Coach definitely doesn’t or he would have changed it already. I guess we’re still trying to find ourselves, which at this late in the season is not where you want to be as a team."
After 26 games of a 30-some game season, enough of a track record exists to determine just who these Terps are.
In truth, Maryland (18-8, 6-7 ACC) is a group dead-set against predictability. It infuriates fans. It sends scribes scrambling for explanations that don't really fit.
And it confounds coaches. Of that there is little doubt.
"I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a team that’s this young, that I have to rely on [youth] so much," coach Mark Turgeon said. "I know their freshman [Olivier Hanlan] played really well tonight. This is new territory. I’ve been a head coach for 19 years, including my JV team and been coaching 26 years and this is new territory for me."
Turgeon isn't entirely out of answers this year, but there are some nights when there simply aren't solutions that can work. Surely, as Turgeon sat down in the final two minutes as the Eagles (12-14, 4-9) ruthlessly finished off Maryland at the foul line, he couldn't quite grasp how the night unraveled as it had.
Maryland led 33-26 at the break, finishing the first half on an emphatic Dez Wells block. And things soon unraveled, the Terps quickly giving away its advantage.
"The start of the second half James Padgett has a 3-point play opportunity, goes up weak and then shoots an air ball six feet short, and that’s your senior," Turgeon said. "I had no idea we’d play like that. It’s really disappointing.
But surprising? Not particularly. Since the start of conference play, Maryland's longest winning streak is two games. Its longest losing streak is two games.
There's nothing to suggest the Terps have an utter collapse in them. Chances are, they'll impress Saturday against Clemson.
There also isn't a thing to make anyone believe Maryland has five straight wins in it to close out the regular season. There surely wasn't any evidence it was possible in the closing stages Tuesday.
"There’s no explanation," sophomore guard Nick Faust said. "We just have to grow up if we want to change. Guys have to be more consistent and be more committed to the team."
There was all sorts of talk of commitment in the aftermath of Saturday's victory, how the Terps rededicated themselves in the way of an ugly home loss to Virginia.
It will no doubt return in the coming days, as Maryland seeks some measure of predictability beyond its utter unpredictability.
"My team is a challenge every day to figure out what I’m going to get," Turgeon said. "I thought we, as coaches, handled it about as well as we could handle it. I thought we had us prepared. Obviously, we were up nine in the first half and playing well. I don’t think it had anything to do with the game Saturday."
Indeed it didn't, no matter how tempting it was for so many on hand at Conte Forum to ascribe Maryland's latest bottoming-out to getting engulfed in the glee of a victory a few days earlier.
No, this was much more simple, much more mundane. This is who Maryland is this season, great potential and substantial limitations, with no indication it will change in the season's final month.
"I’ve heard from a lot of good coaches and they told me freshmen just want to get on the floor, sophomores just want to score points," said Aronhalt, whose 26 points was the most by a Terp this season. "I think that’s what we’re dealing with out there sometimes. I hope guys can realize winning is so much more important and so much more fun."
For now and quite possibly for good this season, Maryland's erratic nature will make it difficult for the Terps to put Aronhalt's wisdom to use.
--- Patrick Stevens