Maryland walked into Ann Arbor on Monday night and quickly took control of their game against #23 Michigan but still ended up losing in disappointing fashion. The Wolverines passed the Terps at the last second with a pair of free throws by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and escaped with a 68-67 win.
Anthony Cowan put up 24 points and left it all on the court for the Terps, but in the end it wasn’t enough to take down Michigan. The newly-ranked Wolverines leaned on their veteran players after getting off to a slow start and held off the Terps late in the game.
Michigan shot just 31% from the field in the first half, and found themselves down by ten at the half. Maryland did not do anything spectacular during this stretch but they certainly controlled the pace of the game by running a balanced offense and grabbing rebounds. Not only was Michigan shooting poorly, but they showed almost no hustle when it came to getting offensive rebounds. Maryland held a 22-12 advantage in that category at the half.
Unlike their past losses to Michigan State and Ohio State, the Terps’ lack of depth was not exposed in the first half. Everything was moving slow and the home crowd was clearly impacted by it. Once the Wolverines sped the game up, everything changed.
Michigan came out of the half swinging and quickly tied the game up with a 10-0 run. A few minutes later, the Wolverines put on a three-point shooting contest and started to run away from Maryland. Michigan nailed seven baskets from beyond the arc over a five-minute span. You have to give credit where it is due and Michigan deserves it, but Maryland left their shooters wide open on almost all of these attempts.
As the clock ticked away and the game approached crunch time, the defect felt twice as large but Maryland remained within striking distance. Kevin Huerter finally came to life after a quiet start and joined Cowan to put Maryland just one possession behind Michigan. The two sophomores combined for a dozen points in the final two minutes but the biggest shot came from Huerter with just seconds left.
With 16 seconds remaining and no timeouts, Maryland needed a basket to tie. The ball was passed around quickly but Huerter ended up drilling a deep three-pointer to give the Terps a 67-66 lead. After the hectic sequence the Wolverines were left with just three seconds to inbound and score.
Michigan faced no resistance from Maryland on the inbound as they easily got the ball across mid court on the pass. Senior guard Abdur-Rahkman raced toward the basket and got tripped up by Bruno Fernando, drawing a foul. In a fairy tale finish, Abdur-Rahkman sunk both free throws to give himself seven on the night and 1,000 for his career.
This is not the Terps’ first heartbreaking defeat of the year but it will sting the most. After dropping big games against Syracuse, Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State, Maryland was given yet another opportunity and they squandered it.
There is no single moment to blame, though. Obviously, the Terps should have defended the inbound better and not given one of the best free throw shooters in the game a chance to win at the line. But what about the Terps’ own foul shooting? Despite struggling to score a basket at times in the second half, Maryland drew fouls. However, they went just 9-for-14 at the line. Just a few more of those and you get a win.
My biggest gripe has to be the pace of play. The key to Maryland’s first half success was so clear but they failed to stick with it when Michigan started to make a comeback. When you lose by one point, you look back at all the little things that happened down the stretch. Trying to run a fast offense while throwing up bricks should be looming over the Terps as they leave Ann Arbor because they have no one to blame but themselves for this loss.
Maryland is now 1-4 on the road but they will return home on Thursday to host Minnesota. The Golden Gophers hold a similar record to the Terps and are scrapping just as hard to make a name for themselves in the Big Ten.
Image credit: Tony Ding / Associated Press