Slow start comes back to bite Terps in 75-67 loss to #3 Purdue

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

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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