Strong second half leads Maryland past Minnesota 77-66

The Maryland Terrapins came into Thursday’s matchup desperately needing a win. The Terps had run into a rough patch over the last two weeks and dropped three of their last four games. The third and most recent loss came on Monday when Maryland couldn’t hold a late lead against Michigan and lost in a 68-67 heart-breaker.

On Thursday the Terps returned their comfortable home atmosphere to host Minnesota, another Big Ten team looking to make a name for themselves in the conference. Just like Maryland, the Golden Gophers have experienced some tough injuries and been labeled a disappointment. When the game started the two teams continued to look rather similar but the Terps would pull away in the second half and win 77-66.

Four Maryland players finished with double-digit scoring but the starting five was as solid as they have been all season in every facet of the game. Anthony Cowan is usually the driving force behind the teams scoring but the sophomore played a great all around game to help lift Maryland to a win. After going scoreless in the first half, Cowan finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds and a career high 10 assists.

When you look at Minnesota’s night it’s almost crazy how they remained in the game in the first half. The Golden Gophers struggled to shoot over 30% from the field throughout Thursday’s contest but made enough from beyond the arc to stay in striking distance. Some great offensive rebounding and a surplus of Maryland turnovers also helped contribute to a slim 29-28 Maryland lead at the half.

The second half was an entirely different story. While Minnesota continued to struggle, Maryland came out of the gate strong by making 10 of their first 11 shots. Michael Cekovsky started to heat up during this span, racking up a quick ten points in the paint. The rest of the Maryland lineup consistently fed Cekovsky the ball and he continued to deliver with a handful of dunks that brought the crowd back to life. Cekovsky finished his night with 17 points and four blocks.

Thursday’s win also saw a return to form for Kevin Huerter. Unlike some recent games, the Terps didn’t have to wait around for the pale menace to show up. Huerter led the way right from the start, scoring 11 of his 19 points in the first half. The sophomore would also finish with eight rebounds and five assists to round out one of the best starts of his career.

Maryland will hit the road again on Monday to play Indiana at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers are another team stuck in the middle of the Big Ten and will certainly pose a threat to a Maryland team that has struggled on the road.

Image Credit: Patrick Semansky / AP

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Terps take late lead but can’t hold on in 68-67 loss to #23 Michigan

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

Huerter drops 23 but Maryland falls short in battle with Syracuse 72-70

SYRACUSE — Maryland basketball has been back in swing for a few weeks now but their Monday night matchup with Syracuse marks their first opportunity for a quality win. Through the first seven games the Terps have been able to take care of business for the most part. They did get caught by St. Bonaventure this past weekend in a 63-61 loss, but overall things have been progressing smoothly for Mark Turgeon’s young squad.

With the departure of Melo Trimble this past offseason, many thought Maryland would be at a disadvantage in 2017-2018. So far this post-Trimble team has managed to find success by sharing the wealth. We got a glimpse of this last year when Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson ended up as major contributors as freshman. Last season, some pressure was taken off of Trimble but as the season wore on, he ended up shooting more than his teammates but the shots just weren’t falling.

Maryland is certainly lacking some on court leadership with Trimble gone, but it looks like the depth of this year’s team will make up for that. The foundation of Huerter, Jackson, and Anthony Cowan Jr. will lead the way but there are other exciting players to look out for. Junior Dion Wiley is finally back from an injury-plagued 2016-17 while Bruno Fernando and Darryl Morsell will look to make waves in their freshman year.

The Terps’ downfall so far this season has been turnovers. A lopsided 20-9 turnover margin was a major factor in their loss to St. Bonaventure and it certainly had an impact in the early goings of Monday nights game.

Eleven first half turnovers helped Syracuse take a 36-35 lead but the Terps’ shooting kept them in the game. Maryland finished the half with a 10-4 scoring run and a three-point shooting percentage of 41.7%. Huerter was on fire from beyond the arc and Fernando dominated inside for a balanced Terrapin attack.

Both of these players continued to produce for the Terps in the second half. With the lead bouncing back and forth, the Terps needed to rely on them to stay hot down the stretch.

With under two minutes to play, Huerter nailed his seventh three-pointer of the game to take a 66-65 lead. However, Syracuse’s Tyus Battle would respond quickly with a three of his own. The Terps were looking to score again as the clock winded down but a very untimely turnover by Cowan handed Syracuse the game. Huerter added yet another desperation three-pointer but it was too late for Maryland and the Orange held on for a 72-70 win.

This loss is disappointing for the Terps but the blueprint for success is clear. As long as they can clean up the turnovers, they will have a chance in a competitive Big Ten conference. This was also a good road test for a young team and they played a very solid game besides the turnovers. The freshman – Fernando and Morsell – were especially impressive for me. I’m looking forward to seeing how much they can contribute this year without having the pressure of carrying the team.

Image Credit: Patrick Semansky / Associated Press

 

Maryland falls to Xavier 76-65 in first round of NCAA tournament

Despite earning a six seed from the selection committee, the Terps could not survive their first round matchup against 11 seeded Xavier, losing 76-65.

The game started with both teams under-performing on offense but the Musketeers were able to make some adjustments and pull away with a 12-0 run.  Maryland took a little longer to find their groove. By the 10 minute mark the Terps were just 2-9 from beyond the arc and were struggling as a whole on offense.

In the NCAA tournament cold streaks are unacceptable. You have to find a way to score even if you are cold and Kevin Huerter was able to do just that by getting to the free throw line on back to back possessions. These free points finally reignited the Maryland offense and brought the Terps back within two.

At the break, the Terps held a slim 36-35 lead. A quick 6-0 run, capped off by a Melo Trimble fast break steal, gave Maryland the lead. Their three-point shooting improved and Xavier turned the ball over a lot down the stretch. Both of these factors combined for a Maryland comeback and a close halftime score.

The momentum stayed in Maryland’s favor as the second half began but a 15-4 run by the Musketeers made the game neck and neck with ten minutes to go. After tying the game up, Xavier stepped on the gas pedal and stretched the lead to 11 in a matter of minutes.

As the clock winded down, the Terps slowly chipped away at the lead and cut it to six with just under three minutes to play.  However, some unnecessary fouls by Maryland quickly put the Musketeers back up with a more comfortable lead. They would hold onto this lead as the final minute concluded and cruise to a 76-65 win.

This concludes the Terps 2017 season. What started as a rebuilding year, ended with a third straight trip to the NCAA tournament for coach Mark Turgeon and Maryland. As the season progressed the freshman starters began to show the common signs of fatigue that come with playing over 30 games in a season.  

Whether or not Melo Trimble returns for his senior year, there is a lot to be excited about for this young Terps team.  The core of Huerter, Cowan, and Jackson will continue to grow and hopefully lead Maryland back to another tournament appearance next year.

Maryland loses to Northwestern 72-64, makes early exit from conference tourney

Maryland made some impressive runs in Friday night’s matchup against Northwestern but couldnt keep the pace and ended up losing 72-64. With the tournament being held in D.C, the crowd of over 20,000 favored the hometown Terrapins greatly but the Wildcats were able to outlast the Terps

Maryland started the game with a consistent attack on the boards, picking up a majority of their points by driving. Unlike many of their recent games, the Terps did not shoot a lot of three pointers. This change in game plan worked well for them too as they pulled out to 14-8 lead by the 13 minute mark.

Maryland also took advantage of nine Northwestern turnovers in the first half. This was a surprising amount considering the Wildcats have averaged just over 10 turnovers a game all season. The Northwestern game plan relied heavily on the three point shot. At the half, the Terps had a slim 36-34 lead but the Wildcats were shooting 50% from beyond the arc.

At the start of the second half, the Terps exploded out of the gate with an 8-0 run and quickly extended their lead to ten. This would end up being Maryland’s biggest lead of the game. The Wildcats went about five minutes without a point during this run but were still able to go on a run of their own and tie the game at 46 by the 12 minute mark.

From here the Maryland offense completely disappeared. Northwestern regained the lead and never gave it back, added to it down the stretch. The game plan that helped the Terps early in the game had been ignored in favor of the unnecessary three point shooting that we have seen recently.  Essentially the shots just weren’t falling.  

The problem was that the Wildcats never slowed down. The three point shooting from the first half continued and played a big role in their lengthy runs. They finished the game 7-15 from three and also dominated the boards, out rebounding the Terps 32-24.

With about two and a half minutes to go, Northwestern held a commanding 64-54 lead and the hostile crowd had been silenced. The fans headed for the exits and the Wildcats set their sights on a matchup with Wisconsin as they closed out a 72-64 victory.

Kevin Huerter had a standout performance for the Terps. The Freshman finished with 19 points, four assists and three steals.  Melo Trimble scored 20 and added six rebounds.

After this loss, the Terps will wait another week before they play again. The national tournament begins on March 16. Maryland will find out their seeding and first round opponent this Sunday night.  

Maryland survives matchup against Ohio State, 86-77

After losing two games in a row for the first time this season, Maryland was in desperate need of a win on Saturday. The loss against Purdue last Saturday was certainly disappointing given the circumstances, but Tuesday’s loss at Penn State was even worse. Another loss at home against an average team like Ohio state would have been devastating to say the least.

Sporting their all gold uniforms, the Terps thrived off of their soldout home crowd and came out swinging. Five minutes into the game, Maryland had a 9-0 lead and by the eight minute mark, they took their first ten point lead and continued to build on it as the first half concluded.

The interesting thing was the fact that the scoring didn’t come from any one player in particular. Maryland led 45-31 at the half with 20 points coming from the bench. Despite their first half domination, the Terps were held in check by the Buckeyes early in the second half.  Ohio State made a few significant runs before the ten minute mark and even cut the lead to just six at one point.

The game was beginning to feel eerily similar to the matchup against Purdue just one week ago. Last week the Terps had a double digit lead and were in complete control, but poor shot clock management and a lack of defense gave the game away. With Ohio State fighting back on multiple occasions, the usually rowdy Maryland crowd was uncomfortably quiet at times.

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C.J Jackson put up 13 and was one of just five Ohio State players to score in Saturdays game.  Source: Patrick Semansky, AP 

With two and half minutes to play, Ohio State already had two of their players fouled out and were not getting my favors from the refs. But a pair of back-to-back threes cut the Maryland lead to just five.  Kevin Huerter momentarily got the crowd back into it with a deep three, but Ohio State responded immediately to bring it back to five point game.

 

With under a minute to go, the Terps showed much better poise than a week ago. Anthony Cowan took as much time off the clock as possible and sunk a good look from three. There may have been a sense of panic among the crowd but the Terps were able to get back to their late game confidence. With a more comfortable eight point lead, Maryland was able to put the game on ice at the free throw line and close out an 86-77 victory

To the Buckeyes’ credit, they were able to stay within striking distance and keep the game competitive despite having zero points from their bench players. As lopsided as it may have felt at times, Ohio State’s starting five putting up 77 points was an impressive feat. I thought that Maryland played well overall and even dominated at times, but to let a depleted OSU team get back in the game in crunch time is just unacceptable.

This win could save Maryland from falling out of the Top 25 but that is very much in question. A more commanding victory would have helped but at the end of the day this was a must win game and the Terps got it done. However, Maryland will play two of their toughest games of the season next week. These upcoming road games against Northwestern and Wisconsin will be huge in deciding the legitimacy of Maryland as we approach March.

Maryland drops big game against Purdue 73-72

On Saturday Maryland suffered a heartbreaking 73-72 loss to Purdue at home. The game was being advertised as one of the biggest in Big Ten conference play so far this season. The matchup of #23 Purdue vs #17 Maryland was exciting enough, but this also marked the Terps’ first game against a ranked opponent this season.  

After playing four of their last five on the road, Maryland was just happy to be home for their biggest matchup of the season so far. The stakes were high but Maryland came out ready to play in front of a sellout crowd in College Park. The Terps jumped out to an early 11-2 lead on the shoulders of some impressive inside play from Damonte Dodd. Purdue didn’t help their own cause either, with a handful of turnovers.

The Boilermakers would not be held down for very long, climbing back into the game on the shoulders of their sophomore playmaker, Caleb Swanigan.  While Purdue did not make a three point shot until the seven minute mark, they still found themselves within one possession for much of the first half. The Boilermakers even took the lead at one point and only found themselves down by two at the break.

The second half started with another Maryland run. This 16-6 start gave the Terps their first double digit lead of the game but once again Purdue was able to come back and make it a one possession game. Like many of Maryland’s games this season, the terps battled their opponent down the stretch with neither team taking a significant lead.

Maryland did a good job spreading the ball around for most of the game, but in crunch time it was all about Melo Trimble. By driving to the basket and forcing contact, Trimble was able to send himself to the line multiple times. Over the final seven and a half minutes of the game, Maryland went without a field goal. The foul shots were going down for Maryland but you cannot win on that alone. Trimble finished the game with 22 points, 14 of which came from the free throw line.

With under a minute to play, Caleb Swanigan fouled out of the game and Purdue was on the ropes. With a three point lead, Maryland just needed to hold the ball as long as possible and take their fouls shots. Instead, the Terps took a shot too early and missed. Isaac Haas was fouled on the ensuing possession and cut the Maryland lead to just one.

This mistake certainly added more tension but did not lose the game for Maryland, as they still held the lead with even less time on the clock. The problem was that they made the same mistake twice. Once again the Terps failed to utilize the game plan that got them to this point in the game and shot too early. Purdue grabbed the rebound with six seconds to play and shot at the win.

As the clock ticked away, Justin Jackson committed an unnecessary foul and sent the Boilermakers to the line with a shot to win. Freshman Carsen Edwards sunk both free throws and gave Purdue a 73-72 lead with two seconds to play.

The Terps needed a miracle but Kevin Huerter’s inbound pass was too high, resulting in an easy turnover for Isaac Haas of Purdue. However, Haas made the mistake of walking with the ball, thinking the game was over. This happens quite often in basketball but is rarely called. This time the refs decided that there was enough time left on the clock to justify the travel call. Maryland had one last shot to steal the victory from Purdue with half a second left on the clock.

The Terps inbounded from the baseline and looked for Melo Trimble. To no surprise, he was double covered. Jackson was the next option, but he couldn’t get open either. This left Kevin Huerter somewhat open for a shot. He got it off before the buzzer, but the ball bounced off the rim and the Boilermakers rushed the court in celebration.

The loss will likely result in Maryland dropping in the rankings come Monday.  Their #17 placement was partially built on potential considering they had not played a Top 25 opponent until Saturday. With that being said, they will not fall out of the rankings entirely and there are still games to be played against ranked teams like Wisconsin and North Western.