Jordan Williams extended his double-double streak to 11, but Maryland went over seven scoreless minutes, gave up a 17-0 run, and blew a 12-point lead as Villanova came back to defeat the Terrapins, 74-66.
Maryland came out swinging, as they normally do against these types of teams, and took a three-point lead into the break. They came out of the half just as strong, quickly building the lead up to nine on the strength of four points and an assist by Terrell Stoglin. A similarly strong stretch by Adrian Bowie and Jordan Williams stretched the lead further. Williams hit a layup at 9:29 in the second half to push Maryland's margin to 12, and at that point it seemed like Maryland had the game in the bag.
And then the wheels came off. The Terrapins didn't score again until 2:14, a scoreless stretch of over seven minutes, while Villanova went on a 17-0 run of their own to flip Maryland's 12 point lead into a 5-point Nova margin. Along the way, Maryland missed 8 shots and seemingly ignored Jordan Williams' presence. It was, in short, an epic offensive collapse.
Maryland made a slight effort in the closing minutes, but ultimately things improved little. They remained shaken and inable to score in the halfcourt. It was a depressing show. Villanova hit their free throws down the stretch and pulled away, 74-66.
It's pretty simple: you can't win when you go scoreless for such a long stretch. It's not like Maryland's a bad team. They have a fantastic center, some talent on the wings, and three pretty good seniors. For the first 30 minutes or so, they showed just how good they could really be.
And then, for the next seven minutes, they showed just how bad they could be. Things went from smooth to disastrous in the blink of an eye. Maryland's a young team, with two freshman point guards and seniors on the wing that are inexperienced in their own right. Just like against Duke, the Terrapins simply had no idea how to play with a lead or how to stop a run when Villanova started to pick up the intensity. They got sloppy, they got rattled, and they went away from what was working: namely, Jordan Williams.
Williams is the best player on the team by a ridiculous margin and was probably the best player on the floor. He had 16 points and 9 boards in the first half, and finished with 25 and 14. He was completely dominant for stretches and showcased some moves were NBA-worthy. The problem is that as time went on, Maryland found it harder and harder to get him the ball consistently, while the surrounding pieces got rattled and shaken by Villanova. It's not like we didn't know it earlier, but Maryland isn't a good halfcourt team.
In fact, every single bad thing we knew about Maryland cropped up in this game. Free throw shooting was 55% - Maryland left 8 points at the line, 5 of them coming from Jordan Williams. They shot 2-11 from three, missing a variety of wide-open shots down the stretch. They started hemorrhaging turnovers and ended with 14 total, most in the second half. They were even outrebounded by 10, giving up a bunch of extra scoring opportunities to Villanova. And yes, the inexperience and the shakiness in big situations reared it's ugly head yet again.
All of that overshadowed what was otherwise a very good performance for the first 30 minutes. You don't get a 12 point lead at a top 10 team without doing something right. Terrell Stoglin went Beast Mode early in the second half. Cliff Tucker had his moments, and Sean Mosley looked better than he has. Pe'Shon Howard got in on the act with a big three-pointer late in the first half. Really, things were great. And then they turned terrible.
It's so difficult for me to blame a young team for collapsing against a great team on the road. In some ways, it's inevitable. But it's not like this is the first time this has happened. Against Duke, okay, it was understandable. But at some point, you figured they would've learned from their mistakes and prevented it from happening yet again. That didn't happen.
Like I said before the game, you have to cash in all those moral victories at some point. This was the last opportunity to do so out-of-conference, to get that big marquee win that makes or breaks a tournament resume. And Maryland had in it their clutches, only to let it slip away in an epic offensive collapse.
That doesn't mean the season's over. This loss hurt like hell, but Maryland still has a future. The Terrapins need to beat Duke on February 2 in the Comcast Center, but that seems like a reasonable outcome. And if they get that win, along with an impressive ACC record - probably something to the tune of 11-5, which isn't impossible given the state of the conference right now - and a couple of wins in the ACC tournament, they should sneak into the NCAA tournament. It's not a guarantee, but I'd be mildly surprised if it didn't happen.
And all of those things are believable, and maybe even probable. Maryland had no offense for the final 10 minutes of the second half and played legitimately terribly for that stretch on the road against a top ten team...and they lost by single digits. This team may have a very visible, depressing ceiling, but UVA and VT aren't Villanova and Pitt. Road games against top 10 teams are never easy, and the first 30 minutes were as impressive as the last 10 were pitiful. They'll make their run in the ACC and they're still a team to watch out for in the conference.
As it stands now, though, that won't rid anyone of the the depression and frustration of watching that collapse.