Maryland limped into their Wednesday night matchup against Purdue as a desperate team. The last few weeks have seen many disappointing performances and tough losses but things got even worse for the Terps when they lost Michael Cekovsky to an ankle injury in Tuesdays practice. The severity of the injury is unknown but Cekovsky did not make the trip to Mackey Arena on Wednesday, leaving the Terps very undermanned against the #3 team in the nation.
If you’re like me, you were anticipating a blowout loss after hearing this unfortunate news. Maryland certainly didn’t do themselves any favors early on and failed to score a basket for the first four minutes of the game. This cold start looked like the beginning of the end but the Terps hung around throughout the first half thanks to a slightly underwhelming offensive performance by Purdue.
The Boilermakers finished the half shooting just 35% from the field. In addition to this, they failed to flex their muscle under the basket and allowed Maryland to match them in rebounds. However, a lopsided 11-1 turnover margin would be the downfall for the Terps. Purdue wasn’t running their best offense but this advantage was enough to give them a 35-24 lead at the half.
I think the best way to describe this Maryland team and their season is a tale of two halves. Every major game usually sees Mark Turgeon’s team start strong but fall apart late thanks to a lack of depth. Wednesday nights game was definitely a tale of two halves but this time Maryland was able to turn it on and play a great second half.
Maryland nearly doubled their first half point total while testing the Boilermakers down the stretch. Bruno Fernando and Darryl Morsell helped lead a potential comeback with great second half performances but the size disadvantage and depth issues would catch up with the Terps in the end.
Fernando struggled to assert himself against Purdue’s big men early in the game but started the second half with a pair of impressive possessions. The electric freshman would end up finishing with 20 points despite battling foul trouble. Morsell contributed 13 points of his own and played a very tough game on the boards. The Freshman picked up seven rebounds int he first half and finished the game with nine for a new career high.
Kevin Huerter had a great second half performance as well and single-handedly put the Terps back in the game. Around the nine minute mark Huerter nailed three straight three pointers to cut Purdue’s lead to just one possession. It was their slimmest lead since the very beginning of the game when they went up 4-0. The environment had completely changed after this quick nine point run but Purdue had an answer.
Good teams do not crumble under pressure and even though the Boilermakers had just surrendered their lead, Matt Painter was able to setttle his team down with a timeout. They would come out of this short break and put together a mini 7-0 run to take back a ten point lead.
Purdue had trouble stopping Huerter and the Terps from beyond the arc but they were able to utilize the drastic size difference to easily regain their lead and eventually close out the game. No matter how many big shots the Terps made, Purdue was just too tough under the rim. As usual Isaac Haas was a forced to be reckoned with. The senior racked up 20 points with ease to lead the Boilermakers to their 18th straight win.
Sophomore guard Carsen Edwards had 17 points while Dakota Mathias chipped in 11 and made his 200th career three pointer in the first half. The Boilermakers now have the longest active win streak in the nation and continue to build their best conference start in school history. Early in the year, Michigan State looked like a clear favorite to walk away with the Big Ten but Purdue has quickly emerged as the new front-runner.
Maryland hasn’t had the easiest schedule but anytime you lose six out of eight, there is a reason to be concerned. The Terps are still winless against ranked opponents and the road ahead will likely only offer one more chance to change that. The Cekovsky injury will be a huge factor moving forward as well. I would assume losing him for any amount of games would surely put the nail in Maryland’s season.
Image Credit: Michael Conroy / AP