Down 58-53 in the second half to Louisville, Maryland men’s basketball had to have one final push to make it two straight games with successful second-half comebacks.
Senior guard Eric Ayala took the ball at the top of the key, then dribbled to his right as he looked for any kind of room against Louisville’s stout perimeter defense. Ayala felt contact while shifting to his right, but he was whistled for an offensive foul, eliminating Maryland's possession with under a minute and a half remaining in the second half.
The Terps got the ball back, but a missed layup from forward Donta Scott soon after sealed the deal in the Bahamas. Louisville went on to extend its advantage at the line to put Maryland away for good.
Maryland’s collapse and inability to bounce back in the final few minutes of the second half led to its 63-55 loss to Louisville in the championship game of the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship on Saturday morning.
“They’re a heck of a team, they’re deep, they’re physical, they got a lot of pieces, they’re hard to guard,” head coach Mark Turgeon said of Louisville. “But I’ll say this, we got a lot better. I didn’t know what I had flying down here. I got a competitive group that really competes, was ready to play at 10 in the morning today... we really competed and we got a lot better.”
The defeat is the Terps’ second of the season as it has now dropped games to George Mason and Louisville. Maryland will be back in action on Dec. 1 when it faces off with Virginia Tech in College Park for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
After erasing a 12-point deficit and coming back to beat Richmond in the first round of the event on Thanksgiving, Maryland found itself in the midst of a physical back-and-forth game in the opening minutes.
Louisville jumped out to a 5-1 start, while Maryland’s first field goal came from Fatts Russell at around the three and a half minute mark. The Terps started just 1-for-5 from the field, and those types of struggles have been a common occurrence in the first half all season for them.
Maryland’s defense helped it stick around in the early goings, though, as the Cardinals were forced into two early turnovers and just 2-for-7 shooting from the floor out of the gates.
The swarming effort on defense from the Terps helped them open up on offense soon after. Maryland went on a 9-0 run, holding Louisville scoreless over a four-minute span to give it its first lead of the day and a good portion of the momentum. Louisville found very little success inside, which prompted the big run for the Terps.
Louisville was forced to call a timeout as Maryland charged ahead with a 10-5 lead. It wasn't necessarily a dominant performance for Maryland in the first eight minutes or so, but its defensive effort gave it the clear edge. The Cardinals hit just two of their first 11 attempts and committed six of the game’s first seven turnovers.
Soon after the timeout, the defense continued to be the story for Maryland. Ayala, who limped off at one point and had a quiet first half with two points after scoring 20 total against Richmond, stole the ball on one end for the team’s fourth steal of the day, then the Terps came right back down on offense and graduate guard Xavier Green knocked down a difficult three-pointer to extend the lead even further.
Maryland led 16-13 by the eight-minute mark. The Terps looked like the stronger team for most of the half, but the Cardinals wouldn't go away. Louisville gave Maryland a taste of its own medicine and forced it into a few consecutive turnovers, which led to points. It took just 60 seconds for Louisville to go on a 6-0 run, giving it the 19-18 advantage with just over six minutes left in the first half.
The Cardinals kept pushing as it looked like the Terps would go into the break with a deficit for the fifth time in the seven total games they have played. Louisville scored six of the next eight points to go up by five as Maryland’s scoring ability went quiet.
A pretty turnaround floater from center Qudus Wahab, giving him five points in the half, broke Maryland’s dry spell and shrunk Louisville’s lead to 28-26. The Cardinals were able to expand on their lead late, pushing the score to 32-27 before the buzzer sounded.
Russell led the way for Maryland in the first half with seven points and five rebounds. Elsewhere, there wasn't much offensive success for the Terps who shot just 36% from the field over the first 20 minutes. Hakim Hart and Scott combined for just four points on 2-for-8 shooting. Rebounding was also a major issue going into halftime. Maryland had 12 total rebounds, while Louisville grabbed 29 total broads with 12 of those being on the offensive glass.
Maryland got things cooking with a beautiful play to open up the second half. Hart took the ball from the top of the key and found a sneaking Scott who crept backdoor and finished off the one-two play with a two-handed slam.
Both sides were trading three-pointers, one from Ayala and two from Louisville’s Noah Locke, as Maryland trailed 38-32 just four minutes into the second half.
Scott helped the Terps chip back into the game with a three-pointer, his first of the game, that swished through the net to bring Maryland back within five points. Before his three, the Terps found themselves on a scoring drought that stretched nearly five minutes. The Cardinals committed back-to-back turnovers just before the under-12 timeout and Maryland was seemingly back in business.
Ayala came out of the break with another layup, then Scott nailed another three-pointer from the same spot to knot the game at 42 apiece. Freshman forward Julian Reese capped off the run with a massive layup and a foul to give Maryland its first lead in quite some time. Maryland went on an 11-0 run over two minutes and eight seconds to march back in front.
Louisville started to become desperate along the perimeter and it unnecessarily took a few difficult threes that didn’t go in. Maryland still held the three-point lead with just under eight minutes to go.
Coming out of the timeout, Ayala put the ball close to his chest, drove to the basket and hit the layup with the foul as well. Maryland’s run was an extended one, as it scored 13 unanswered points to take a 47-42 lead. However, Louisville scored five straight points to tie the game at 47. The game headed into the final five minutes all tied up.
The Cardinals knocked down a critical three, which was responded by a layup from Russell, but Louisville added another two points to go up 54-51 in the late stages of the game. Louisville was winning 58-53 with just over a minute remaining. Scott missed the layup coming out of the brief timeout, then free throws from the Cardinals did the Terps in from there.
Time ran out on the Terps, who eventually fell 63-55.
“I think we learned that no matter we always going to be a fighting team,” Scott said. “When it comes down to it, no matter if its height, our speed, our this or that, it’s always going to be nothing but us, we always gonna back each other, have each other’s back.”
Three things to know
1. Despite getting Louisville in foul trouble, Maryland still trailed at the end of the first half. Maryland was extremely aggressive over the course of the first 20 minutes and drew plenty of whistles. The Terps were in the bonus by the 9:40 mark of the half and they made them pay at the free throw line. Maryland finished the first half 8-for-12 at the line, while Louisville finished with 10 total fouls heading into the break. Despite this, Maryland still faced a 32-27 deficit going into the second half. For the fifth time in seven games, the Terps were down after the opening 20 minutes.
2. The Terps were beat in the rebounding game. Maryland came into the game averaging over nine more rebounds than its opponents per game. Especially in the first half, that wasn’t the case. Louisville had 29 rebounds compared to 12 for Maryland’s side at the end of the first half and the Cardinals had 12 offensive rebounds as well. It was a battle on the boards all game long, and Louisville ended with the huge 51-25 advantage when all was said and done.
“They did a good job being physical on the defensive end of court and then they executed on offense end of the court,” Russell said. “They out-rebounded us and you know, it’s hard to win games when you get out-rebounded like that.”
3. Hakim Hart cooled off after his phenomenal effort against Richmond. Hart was a big reason as to why Maryland clinched the first round win over the Spiders on Thanksgiving. He had season-highs all over the board with 24 points and four steals. He shot 8-for-9 in that game that the Terps won by six. However, his production dropped off in the Louisville game. Hart had just two points on two shot attempts in the first half and he finished with two points at the end of 40 minutes.
“They were locked into our guys, and you know it was physical and Hakim’s not the strongest, most physical guy in the world so that kinda makes it hard for him... so physical games it’s tough for him,” Turgeon said. “We need him to score, it’s obvious... we need guys to score.”