BROOKLYN, N.Y. — With about two minutes remaining, Maryland men’s basketball had the 65-63 lead over No. 20 Florida as the Gators were looking for a spark to find the win.
And with a minute and 14 seconds remaining, Florida moved down the court quickly and got the ball to guard Tyree Appleby who sank his fifth three of the day giving the Gators a 66-65 edge over the Terps.
Less than 20 seconds later, graduate guard Fatts Russell drove in the paint and sank a layup while drawing a foul. He made his shot from the charity stripe but Florida responded instantly to tie the game at 68 apiece.
With 16 seconds remaining, junior forward Donta Scott made a layup in the paint which proved to be the difference as Florida could not find the basket in the closing seconds.
The Terps left Brooklyn with a 70-68 win over Florida, marking Danny Manning’s first win as interim head coach of the program.
“We haven’t played the way that we’re capable of playing. I think you have to give credit to the team that we played,” Manning said. “But also we know we can do better. Today it was definitely a step in that direction.”
Florida started off shooting just 20% from the field on five shots in the first two and half minutes missing four consecutive field goals. With 17 minutes to go in the first half, senior guard Eric Ayala hit his 19th three-point shot of the season to give the Terps an early 5-3 lead while the Gators hadn’t scored from the field in nearly three minutes.
Less than a minute later, Florida snapped its drought and tied the game up at five apiece.
In the opening four minutes, both teams struggled to hold on to the ball as the Terps and the Gators turned the ball over three and two times, respectively.
With a little over 14 minutes remaining in the first half, freshman forward Julian Reese was at the line after Florida fouled him and junior center Qudus Wahab marking one of the few times the two were on the court at the same time this season.
Before this matchup, Reese and Wahab were on the floor for just a few minutes together. Against Florida, they shared the floor for about three minutes.
A few minutes later, Manning rotated the lineup however, the low-scoring affair continued. With less than 10 minutes to go, Florida hit zero of its last four attempted shots while Maryland hadn’t scored in nearly two and a half minutes and had three turnovers in the same amount of time.
Junior guard Donta Scott broke through with a shot from deep to give the Terps the lead but the team continued to make costly mistakes preventing them from extending their lead.
Back-to-back plays— a three from senior guard Eric Ayala and a layup from junior guard Hakim Hart— gave Maryland a 21-17 lead but Florida responded with a three of their own with under seven minutes remaining to close the gap.
At that point, the Terps who shot just 49% from the field and 62% from deep were 50% from the field and 75% from deep on four attempts. Florida, on the other hand, was 35% from the field and 30% from behind the arc as its struggles from deep persisted in the first portion of the opening half.
The Gators and continued to trade the lead in the middle of the first half however, as both teams continued to turn over the ball, Florida piled on the fouls picking up its eighth of the half with three and a half minutes to go in the first frame.
At that point, Maryland had the hot hand hitting five of its last seven field goals including all of the last three attempts to go on a 7-0 run.
However, after snapping the drought, all of sudden, Florida found momentum hitting four consecutive shots from the field to tie the game at 33 with about a minute remaining.
The Gators opened up the second half with a pair of free throws and a layup. Graduate guard Fatts Russell responded scoring the Terps' first five points with a layup and three.
Ayala then hit his third three-pointer of the day to give Maryland the 41-39 lead with about 16 minutes remaining in the game to extend what would become an 8-0 run for the Terps snapped by a three from the
“Coach Manning has done a lot of competitive shooting drills, you know, getting us ready, shooting game reps and stuff like that,” Ayala said.
While Florida couldn’t find points, Russell continued to as he hit his second three of the day making him a perfect 2-of-2 from deep with 13 minutes remaining.
That Florida three-point basket would be the only one the Gators hit in their last 12 attempts with less than 11 minutes remaining as they experienced another scoring drought, this one lasting about four minutes.
In the second half, Russell and Ayala were the only scorers in the second half as the Terps were in a two-and-a-half-minute scoring drought of their own until the 10-minute mark when Scott hit a layup to extend Maryland’s lead to 48-44.
Florida closed the Terps’ lead with a three however a technical on Tyree Appleby gave Hart the chance to try two free throws. He sank one and on the next play, Scott had a three-point play as he was fouled on his way up to sinking a layup extending Maryland’s lead to 52-47.
The teams continued to trade baskets until Russell hit his third three of the day to remain perfect from deep with six and half minutes remaining. About 30 seconds later, Florida’s Appleby hit back-to-back threes after an inbounding violation on Maryland’s part to bring it to a one-point game.
However back-to-back driving layups and a successful foul shot from Ayala gave Maryland some breathing room but Florida quickly closed the gap back to 64-63 with under three minutes remaining.
After Appleby hit a three to put Florida up by one soon after, a bucket and a foul from Russell and a Scott basket put Maryland up for good. The Gators missed their last three-point attempt from the field as the Terps clinched their first win since Nov. 25.
Three things to know
1. Fouls and turnovers hurt Maryland and Florida. Both teams struggled to hold on to the ball throughout the entirety of the contest. In the first half, Maryland turned the ball over 11 times while Florida did so seven times. The Terps capitalized on the opportunities, scoring eight points off the takeaways while the Gators also collected 13 points off turnovers in the opening 20 minutes. To finish the game, Maryland picked up 15 fouls while Florida picked 20. The Gators turned the ball over 20 times while the Terps did so 12.
2. Maryland had four players finish with double-digit points. Russell, Ayala, Scott and Hart finished with 19, 19, 12 and 11 points, respectively. This marked the first time since the Terps took on Richmond that Ayla put up more than 15 points. Russell’s 19-point performance marked his highest point total since he hit 22 against Vermont about a month ago. Scott had his fifth double-digit scoring performance of the season while Hart had his third consecutive.
3. The victory marked the first win for Danny Manning as interim head coach and is potentially a turning point for this team. The Terps had not won a game since Nov. 25 when it did so against Richmond in the Baha Mar Hoops Event. Maryland then dropped three consecutive games before the program and former head coach Mark Turgeon parted ways. Manning’s first game as interim head coach ended in a loss to Big Ten opponent Northwestern but the Terps made up for it with a major bounce-back win over a ranked opponent.
“We’ve been through a lot of adversity but we stuck together. I feel like that was the main thing, Russell said.
“We had a lot of meetings, you know, heart-to-heart meetings. Told each other that we’re gonna go for this thing, we’re gonna stay together and we’re gonna fight this out. I felt like today was a step in the right direction.”