Maryland fails to overcome Purdue’s seniors, opens conference play with 80-75 loss

COLLEGE PARK, MD — After losing a road game against Syracuse earlier this week, Maryland was faced with a quick turnaround. There was no time to stew over the loss because Purdue was on their way to College Park to begin conference play early.

Since joining the Big Ten, Maryland hasn’t had much trouble creating potential rivalries. Purdue is one of those teams that the Terps have had exciting battles with the past few years. Possibly the most exiting game took place last season when both teams squared off as members of the top 25. Maryland jumped out to a 12 point lead about mid-way through the second half but collapsed down the stretch, allowing the Boilermakers to come all the way back and win with a pair of free throws in the final seconds.

This year Purdue found themselves ranked as a preseason top 20 team. A pair of disappointing losses to Tennessee and Western Kentucky knocked them out of the poll but they have since bounced back with great wins against #2 Arizona and #17 Louisville.

In the first half of Fridays game the Terps found themselves down by ten early despite only turning the ball over once. Earlier this week that would have seemed impossible but when you go up against Purdue, you have to stop their big men and Maryland couldn’t do that. Freshman, Bruno Fernando has been flashy so far this year but he hasn’t had to defend anyone like Isaac Haas. The Boilermakers center dominated early on, picking up eight points and block by the 11 minute mark.

Maryland found themselves down by 14 on multiple occasions in the first half because of some lights out shooting by Haas and Dakota Mathias. The Purdue seniors combined to shoot 13/14 from the field for 30 points.

Given all of this, it’s pretty surprising that Maryland was able to make it a 43-37 game by the half. The Terps enjoyed a significant advantage in the rebound column, grabbing ten on offense and eight on defense. Throw in 12 free throw opportunities and all of a sudden things aren’t looking as lopsided in Purdue’s favor.

The Terps carried this momentum into the second half by going on a small 7-0 run. The quick burst of offense gave Maryland their first lead of the game but it wouldn’t last long. As the half progressed Purdue regained the lead, forcing the Terps to continue playing from behind.

Just like the first half, Maryland would be given a chance to come back at the foul line. The Boilermakers were called for seven fouls in the span of four minutes, putting Maryland in the bonus with eleven to play. Purdue was able to work their way into the bonus as well, making the final minutes of Friday’s game a slow and grueling experience.

As the final minutes approached it looked like Purdue had wrapped up yet another quality win but the Terps weren’t done yet. Down by eight with under a minute to play Anthony Cowan Jr. put the team on his back. The sophomore guard scored seven points in the span of ten seconds after getting fouled on a three pointer and a layup. This late game surge brought Maryland back within three, but just like their game against Syracuse, the Terps couldn’t finish late.

Mark Turgeon called a timeout to draw up a play and to his credit, it was run very smoothly. A pick allowed Jarred Nickens to get free for an open shot from the corner but he came up short. The Boilermakers rebounded and made the ensuing foul shots to walk away with a nice 80-75 road win.

The Terps answered the turnover problems that caused their first two loses and even finished with an advantage in rebounds, but it was not enough for a win. Once again this young team has been tested by a tough opponent but their inexperience continues to show in crunch time. More playtime will likely bring this young team together as conference play progresses but the Big Ten is always a slug fest.

Maryland will have another quick turnaround as they prepare to play Illinois on the road this Sunday. After losing three of their last four, the Terps are just looking for a win to get their groove back. Tip off is at 8:00 pm.

Image Credit: Patrick Semansky / AP

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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

 

Turgeon’s temper flares as Terps lose to Minnesota 89-75

Coming off of a tough loss at Wisconsin, the Terps ran into a hot Minnesota team and lost 89-75 on Wednesday night. 

Last time these teams faced off, Maryland was able to pull out a close win, but not without a fight. That win still stands as one of the Terps’ best wins on the season but the Gophers have not lost since then.

The teams traded punches in the first half with Maryland leading 35-34 at the break. Both teams’ shooting percentages were very close with Minnesota sitting at 45% and Maryland at 42%. The turnovers and fouls were also even. The only major stat advantage went to Maryland on the glass.

The biggest surprise of the first half had to be the play of Ivan Bender. His 12 points led the team at the break and served as a career high for the Sophomore big man. With Michal Chekovsky out for the remainder of the season, Bender has to step up and simply play better. Many Maryland fans have questioned Bender’s ability all season but he certainly looked like a different player in the first half of Wednesday’s game.

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For the second game in a row, Mark Turgeon has hurt the Terps with a technical foul in the games final minutes.  Source: Nick Wass, AP

Minnesota quickly took the lead in the second half with pair of back-to-back three pointers but the score remained within one possession until the 11 minute mark. Everything was shaping up to look like a clone of when these teams met earlier this season, a close scoring slug fest down the stretch.

A few minutes later, the Gophers started to pull away and soon found themselves up 10 by the six-minute mark. During this span, Maryland was taking some unnecessary three pointers. The three-point shot was not the Terps’ strong spot all night, so there was no reason to keep shooting them while Minnesota pulled away.

For the second straight game, coach Mark Turgeon was assessed a technical foul during crunch time. With the Gophers up by eight and Maryland struggling to find the basket, Turgeon’s temper spilled over and Minnesota was given two free throws to regain a ten point lead. With under two minutes to play, Minnesota stretched their lead at the line and held on for the 89-75 win.

Minnesota is a tough team to beat but the Terps could not afford to give this game away. I could excuse Turgeon’s outburst on Sunday because of the intensity surrounding the game and the other factors that led to the loss. This time, there is no excuse. Turgeon cannot do that two games in a row with the game on the line and expect his players to overcome it.  It’s embarrassing, plain and simple.

This loss guarantees that the Terps will be dropped from the Top 25 next Monday.  They will host Iowa on Saturday but a win in that game will not negate the effects of tonight’s loss.

Terps lose important game against No.11 Wisconsin, 71-60

On Sunday Maryland lost a very important game against Wisconsin, 71-60, and once again found themselves without a win against ranked competition.

In the early minutes Maryland was taking most of their shots from beyond the arc.  Enough of these shots went in to make it a close game, but it was obvious that the Terps did not want to be shooting that many threes. The Wisconsin defense was not allowing anything inside, forcing Maryland to put up some desperation attempts late in the shot clock.

The match-up remained closely contested but some questionable calls on both teams put a brief damper on the game late in the first half. During the last four minutes of the half there was an influx of foul calls that brought the flow of the game to a halt. To make things worse, both teams missed a fair share of these free throws, making the end of the first half even harder to watch.

At the break Maryland led 33-27 courtesy of shooting 50% from the three point line. However, the Terps were at a severe disadvantage in the turnover department.  Wisconsin was not shooting very well but the extra opportunities they got from Maryland’s turnovers definitely contributed to the close game.

Early in the second half, the Badgers quickly erased the Terps’ six point lead and established a substantial lead of their own with a 19-5 run. The energy inside the Kohl Center had drastically changed and Maryland was not able to find the big shots they had in the first half to silence the crowd.

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Melo Trimble led the Terps with 27 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists.  Source: Andy Manis, AP

With just over nine minutes to play, Maryland was crawling back and had made it a one possession game. Following an aggressive play where Damonte Dodd got out wrestled for the rebound, Coach Mark Turgeon received a rare technical foul.  Turgeon is very animated, like many other college coaches, but rarely oversteps his boundaries. The foul allowed Wisconsin to regain control and extend their lead once again

 

If the Terps were going to come back, it was going to be an uphill battle. The shooting percentage difference from the first half had almost evened out with both teams floating around 40%. The Terps were also losing the turnover and rebound battles. Wisconsin took advantage of the Terps’ second half struggles and never looked back. They held onto a double digit lead through the final minutes and finished with a 71-60 victory.

Coach Turgeon will surely get a hefty amount of blame for his technical foul.  While I do think it is absurd to place the loss on his shoulders, the outburst came at the worst possible time for Maryland.  That being said, I could also point to the turnovers, the overly sensitive foul calls, or the complete lack of a backbone on the glass as the reasons for this loss.

My only hope is that this loss does not outshine Maryland’s impressive win against Northwestern on Wednesday. I believe the Terps are due for a boost in the rankings on Monday but we will see.  The good news is that Terps will play three of their final four games at home with the sole road game being against the last place Rutgers.