COLLEGE PARK, Md. — From player introductions to final horn Saturday, Virginia Tech's ACC basketball opener was bleak.
The Hokies shot poorly, defended worse and used only six scholarship players against a Maryland squad that may be the conference's deepest.
Oh, and for starters, the public-address announcer butchered Tech's starting lineup, with "Eddie Jarell" the low.
"Tough one tonight," rookie coach James Johnson said after the 94-71 battering at Comcast Center.
With, it appears, more on the horizon.
Not to dismiss the Hokies' 7-0 start, which included outstanding offense, spirited defense and an upset of 15th-ranked Oklahoma State. But Tech is 2-5 since and has lost three straight games by unprecedented margins.
Colorado State, BYU and Maryland, all of which have that NCAA tournament look, are the first ever to beat the Hokies by 23 points or more in consecutive outings. In so doing, the Rams (88 points), Cougars (97) and Terps scored 279 points, Tech's worst defensive stretch since 1990, when Louisville, Cincinnati and South Carolina scored 97, 94 and 93, respectively.
"We can't let a team get in the 90s, man," guard Erick Green said.
The Terps (13-1) shot 51.7 percent, 55.6 in the first half. They committed a modest 11 turnovers and matched their season-high with 10 made 3-pointers.
Yet Johnson called the Hokies' defense "pretty good." He said the priority was to guard the interior, where Maryland starts 7-foot-1 Alex Len, a future first-round draft choice, and 6-8 Charles Mitchell, and brings 6-9 Shaquille Cleare and 6-8 James Padgett off the bench.
Sure enough, Tech battled that group to a virtual draw. Both teams scored 34 points in the paint, the Hokies doubled the Terps 24-12 in second-chance points, and Maryland won the rebounding battle by three, 10 below its average.
But in obsessing over the paint, Tech gave up far too many uncontested jumpers. Freshmen Seth Allen and Jake Layman made most of them and combined for 41 points.
"We're not in a position where we can guard both (the inside and outside) right now," Johnson said. "If they come out and hit shots like they did tonight, it's going to be a long night."
The Hokies were less capable because Johnson benched starting forward C.J Barksdale for the game. Combined with forward Marshall Wood's foot injury, that gave Tech six scholarship players and translated to 25 combined minutes for walk-ons Christian Beyer and Will Johnston.
Johnson said his decision was based on Barksdale's lack of effort in practices and games.
"We've got some guys that are giving more effort and playing harder than C.J. right now," Johnson added.
Fair enough, and good on Johnson for imposing standards on his players and creating them within his program. But the 6-7 Beyer's continued intrepid play — he contributed six points and seven rebounds — notwithstanding, Tech has little chance of avoiding further knockouts without Barksdale and Wood.
When starting post players Cadarian Raines and Joey van Zegeren each committed his fourth foul midway through the second half, the Hokies had Beyer and 6-7 Jarell Eddie in the frontcourt, with Green, Robert Brown and Marquis Rankin at guard.
Len dunked on Maryland's next possession off a feed from Dez Wells.
"We just can't use that as an excuse," Green said of Tech's thin roster. "Gotta play better, man. We gotta play better."
Green scored a game-high 28 points, while Raines grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds. But they weren't nearly enough.
The Terps led by 16 at intermission and by at least 11 throughout the second half. The Hokies shot 37.3 percent, their seventh consecutive game below 42 percent.
"Honestly, I thought we competed, I really did," Green said. "I understand the score and probably y'all thinking something different."
Not really. The question isn't the Hokies' effort. It's their chances of recovering from this spiral.
None of Tech's next five opponents — Boston College, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Virginia and Clemson — appears to be as good as Maryland. Will it matter?
"Our practices have been going really well," van Zegeren said. "I know we'll be able to get that transition from practice to games."