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Three takeaways from Maryland men’s basketball’s loss to Virginia Tech

The Terps drop to 5-3 on the season.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland men’s basketball picked up its third loss of the season as it fell to Virginia Tech, 62-58.

The Xfinity Center was the fullest its been for a game since March 2020 with 15,988 people in attendance, according to UMTerps. The program was honoring Len Bias during its “gold rush” game as the first 4,000 students received gold “34” Bias jerseys.

However, Maryland cme up short and gave away a lead it built in the second half as it fell to the Hokies.

“We’re disappointed this was a special night. Lenny Bias night, College Hall of Fame. We honored him, seeing all the 34 out there was great,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We wanted to win for him, we wanted to play great for him and we weren’t able to do it. So we’re disappointed with that.”

With the loss, Maryland fell to 5-3 on the season.

Here are three takeaway’s from Wedneday’s matchup.

Maryland’s first-half struggles continued late in the half and the Terps’ momentum at the beginning of the second was not enough to pull them ahead.

As Maryland headed into the first media timeout with about 14 minutes to go, it had held Virginia Tech to a scoring drought of about two minutes as the Hokies hit zero of their last four attempted shots from the field.

Junior center Qudus Wahab started off strong for the Terps registering seven points while shooting 3-of-4 from the field and a perfect 1-of-1 from the charity stripe. Wahab also pulled in two rebounds in the first six minutes.

Junior guard Donta Scott also had a good starting hitting the team’s first three of the day and pulling in three rebounds in those first six minutes.

Out of the timeout, the moment continued with a long three from senior guard Eric Ayala, his first points of the day.

“They did a really good job of guarding him,” Turgeon said of how Virginia Tech defended Eric Ayala. “We’re trying to figure out how to get him shots.”

However, with six minutes remaining, Virginia Tech took its first lead of the game, 21-19. And as was the case in five of their first seven matchups before this one, the Terps were unable to bounce back in the opening half.

The Terps were outscored 31-29 headed into the locker room for the sixth time this season down at half.

Although it looked as though Maryland would turn it around in the final 20 minutes, that was not the case.

The Hokies were forced to call a timeout with 12 minutes remaining after they hadn’t scored in nearly seven and half minutes. At that point in the half, Virginia Tech had made zero of their last nine attempted field goals.

The drought continued out of the timeout as the Hokies missed two more consecutive field goals. With 10 minutes to go, the Hokies hit a three to close Maryland’s lead to 43-40. With seven minutes to go Virginia Tech found the basket for two points to tie the game at 46.

From there, the Hokies continued to build. Despite Maryland having chances to tie the game including a final three point shot from junior guard Hakim Hart in the final 15 seconds, the Terps could not find the equalizer and pick up their third loss of the season.

“I think I was open for a split second, but I think I could have took my time and dribbled to the basket,” Hart said.

Maryland’s shooting woes continued but it had a stronger performance in the paint and it had a better rebounding effort.

The Terps had a dominant paint performance outscoring the Hokies 38-20.

With its struggles shooting from deep, the Terps often looked inside to get the job done. Maryland shot just 1-of-13 from deep meaning it converted just 7.7% from behind the arc. After this game, Maryland is now shooting 26.8% from deep as a team.

“We just want to keep, continue to take open looks when can and just we just want to make them,” Hart said.

Looking at players who have taken more than 15 attempts from deep, Hart leads the team with his 33.3% three point shooting percentage hitting six of his attempted 18 threes which is just about where he finished last season. Ayala who shot 33.7% from behind the arc during the 2020-21 season, is currently shooting at a 28.6% clip on 56 attempts from that spot.

When the shots weren’t falling from deep, Maryland had to look for other ways to score but it was not enough as the decision-making was not there throughout the entirety of the game.

“We scored on the break. We got the lead, the crowd was into it. So you’re telling the guys at a timeout, ‘Hey, on the break, just make good decisions, right? You don’t want to stop running,’ because we had the crowd into it,” Turgeon said. “Well, we didn’t make great decisions all the time. And then you know, Eric shot 20 feet is like a turnover.”

Hart scored eight of his 10 total points off layups and Wahab led the scoring effort for the Terps with 18 points and four successful layups.

“Wahab was touching us up in the post they had far too many paint touches and consequently scores,” Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young said.

Beyond scoring in the paint, the Terps also bounced back from their rebounding effort against Louisville.

The Cardinals absolutely cleaned up on the boards against Maryland outrebounding the Terps, 51-25. However, against the Hokies, Maryland outrebounded 39-33.

Freshman forward Julian Reese led the way with eight rebounds and was the only player on the team to grab more than one offensive board. Scott and Wahab were not far behind with seven rebounds each.

Maryland will have to turn things around quickly with a conference opponent on the way.

The Terps start off conference play Sunday, Dec. 5 at noon with a home matchup against Northwestern.

Last season, after falling to Clemson in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, 67-51, the Terps hosted then-No. 19 Rutgers and were not able to bounce back. Although Scott and Ayala led the team in scoring by putting up 20 points and 12 points, respectively, Maryland started 0-1 in conference play as the Terps allowed guard/forward Ron Harper Jr. to hit a game-high 27 points.

Although Northwestern may not pose the same type of challenge as the then-ranked Scarlet Knights did, Maryland’s lack of cohesion in games to start the season puts it in danger of starting conference play the same way.

Ayala, who leads the team with an average of 13.5 points per game as been quiet these last two games. Against Louisville, he scored nine points and Wednesday against Virginia Tech the Hokies held the senior guard to two points on 1-of-9 shooting.

The Hokies also held guard Fatts Russell, who is the second leading scorer on the team with 12.3 points per game, to eight points on 2-of-10 from the floor. Russell picked up half of his points from the charity stripe Wednesday.

Maryland has a history this season so far of allowing one player to run the score up. Wednesday, forward Keve Aluma scored 17 points but in half of Maryland’s eight matchups, the Terps have allowed a player on the opposing team to pick up 20 or more points: Quinnipiac’s Matt Balanc with 25, George Washington’s Joe Bamisile with 20, Vermont’ Ben Shungu with 27 and George Mason’s D’Shawn Schwartz with 24.

Northwestern has multiple players who have already put up 20-point performances and with Maryland’s inconsistent shooting and struggles in the first half, the Terps may be in danger of picking up a loss in its first conference game of the season.

“We got to figure this out, we’re better... we’re all frustrated because our standard here is high at Maryland,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “And the expectations were high coming into this season. We’re still getting used to playing with each other.”