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No. 20 Maryland men’s basketball escapes Hofstra, 69-67

The Terps closed out the game with a 6-0 run in the final moments.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

With under 30 seconds to go and Maryland trailing by two points to Hofstra, senior guard Eric Ayala came off a screen and attacked the right side of the lane. The experienced Terp laid it in off the glass to tie the game with 19 seconds. All Maryland needed was one stop for a chance to win or to send it to overtime.

Once again, Maryland’s star guard came up big on the other end. Ayala blocked a three-point attempt from a Hofstra guard. Off the block, guard Ian Martinez leaped up and secured the ball before he was smacked in the face, sending him to the free throw line with four seconds left and a chance to win the game.

For some reason, Martinez said he had a feeling he'd have to go to the charity stripe for big free throws down the stretch, so he envisioned an empty gym as he was practicing them in shootaround. It worked in shootaround and it worked in the final seconds of Maryland’s win over Hofstra as Martinez said he imagined no one else was in the gym as he approached the free throw line.

The transfer guard nailed both to add to his career-high and give Maryland a two-point lead and the eventual win. Maryland’s guards’ late-game heroics allowed it to overcome another poor shooting night as they took down Hofstra 69-67 in a thriller in College Park on Friday night.

“They didn't panic tonight,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We’re a work in progress but thats a good team [in Hofstra], that’s a really good team.”

It was another lackluster offensive performance for Maryland in which the team struggled to knock down perimeter shots, as it has all season. The Terps shot 5-for-22 from long range, while Hofstra knocked down 12 of its 32 attempts

Maryland’s slow starts crept into its fifth game of the season on Friday night as both teams traded baskets but neither could pull away early. Through five minutes of action, the game was tied at seven apiece.

After a down game from center Qudus Wahab in the loss against George Mason — which was in large part due to a decrease in minutes from his previous showings — Maryland made it an emphasis to feed its big early and often.

Wahab had six of Maryland’s first 12 points to go along with six rebounds before he was subbed out six minutes into the game.

The early part of the game was a battle between two’s and three’s, a theme that has plagued Maryland in the first half of many contests this season. Hofstra was knocking down three-point shots at a high clip, while Maryland simply wasn't, with most of its buckets coming from two-point range.

Through ten minutes Maryland trailed by four while making one of four three-point attempts, while Hofstra knocked down four threes on 10 attempts.

“We have shooters and I'm confident that we are going to start making shots,” transfer guard Fatts Russell said. “We just got to take the right ones and take them confidently.”

But just like that, something clicked for Maryland. The Terps went on an 8-0 run sparked by Hakim Hart, and the long ball.

Hart had been one of the many Terps struggling to connect on threes through the first four games. The junior guard was 0-7 on threes coming into the night. However, in the first half, he hit two threes in less than a minute span to propel Maryland ahead by four.

However, Hofstra took the punches and wouldn't back down. Despite going more than four minutes without a point, the Pride crawled back due to sloppy offensive play from Maryland. Hofstra retook the lead with under four minutes to go. Maryland had nine turnovers through the first 16 minutes of action and finished the half with 10.

Despite the discombobulation offensively, Maryland was able to avoid a halftime deficit as its bench carried the way on both ends down the stretch of the first half.

First, Ian Martinez knocked down a three, his first of the night. Then guard Xavier Green’s quick hands forced a steal and set up a transition opportunity for Maryland. Green passed it ahead to Ayala, who threw a bounce pass to Martinez who elevated and hammered a dunk home, energizing the solemn crowd.

Then it was Martinez coming up big on the defensive end, forcing a steal. The Terps finished the half on a 7-0 run to take a 34-31 halftime lead.

Turgeon was clearly impressed with the production from his bench to end the first half that he started both Green and Martinez in the second half, a change from previous games.

Maryland was holding on to a three-point lead, looking to break free in the second half from a Hofstra team sticking around. A Hofstra guard drove in the line and tried to get a floater to fall. Maryland freshman forward Julian Reese flew in and swatted the ball away.

The Terps gained possession with Russell running the break. He passed it ahead to a familiar face in Scott. The junior forward flushed it home, giving life to a team desperately trying to pull away and avoid another upset less.

Reese, who was playing in place of an active and ready Wahab, got the majority of the big man minutes in the second half, and he made the most of it. Reese had six points through the first 10 minutes as Maryland had more offensive success playing through the low post.

Despite the attempted runs from Maryland to pull away, Hofstra always responded. With under eight minutes in the game, the game was tied at 56. Despite a slew of opportunities that looked like the Terps would break through, they just couldn't find the boost to put Hofstra away.

Instead of Maryland gaining the edge, it was Hofstra that went on a 9-0 run to take a three-point lead with six minutes remaining, the Pride's first lead in the latter half.

Down the stretch, the teams traded baskets back and forth, setting up for a thrilling finish.

Hofstra pulled away late with a four-point lead and over a minute to go. An inside basket by Reese cut the lead to two. From there, the Terps defense locked in and Maryland got the necessary baskets to avoid another upset.

After starting the season with a four-game homestand in which the Terps went 4-1, Maryland will travel to the Bahamas next week with its next matchup coming Thanksgiving night against Richmond.

“Maybe us getting out of here, going down to warm weather and just bonding, maybe we’ll come back one of the hottest teams shooting the ball in America, we’ll see,” Turgeon said with a smirk.

Three things to know

1. Turnovers were a problem on Friday night. Ball security hasn't been a huge problem for Maryland entering Friday night’s contest. The Terps averaged just over 11 turnovers per game through their first four games. However, against Hofstra, it certainly was an issue, particularly in the first half. At halftime, the Terps had 10 turnovers and Hofstra had 17 points off of turnovers. More than half of Hofstra’s first-half points came off of turnovers. Maryland was sloppy and inconsistent in the first half, largely because of its inability to take care of the ball. The Terps finished the game with a season-high 16 turnovers and Russell had four on the night.

2. Ian Martinez was big for Maryland. It was Martinez who sparked a late first-half surge for Maryland on both ends with a steal, a monster dunk and a three-pointer. Turgeon was so impressed with Martinez that he played the most minutes he has all season, in part due to foul trouble to some other Maryland guards. With the increase in minutes, Martinez notched a career-high 13 points on 5-9 shooting, including knocking down the game-winning free throws.

“That’s one of the reasons why I picked Maryland,” Martinez said. “I felt like it was a big stage for me to try to look for that spot to shine, you know, just try to make those big moments.”

3. For the second consecutive game, Qudus Wahab played less than Julian Reese. Wahab has been and continues to be the starting center for Maryland, but his backup, freshman Julian Reese, has been incredibly productive and seen an increase in minutes because of it. Wahab has struggled scoring and passing out of double teams, which many teams have done. Prior to this game, Turgeon said that has contributed to his decrease in minutes.

But on Wednesday against George Mason, Reese played 24 minutes, including down the stretch, compared to Wahab’s 16 minutes. Against Hofstra, Reese also played significantly more minutes than Wahab. In fact, the transfer center didn't enter the game in the second half. It will be interesting to see how Turgeon monitors playing time for his two capable and skilled bigs as the season progresses.

“I told Q at halftime, this might not feel right but I’m going small,” Turgeon said regarding his decision to not play Wahab in the second half.