Maryland men’s basketball entered this one after winning in double-overtime against Northwestern on the road and came back to College Park searching for that second conference win.
Although Rutgers had not been successful on road this season, that changed on Saturday when the Terps could not capitalize on a first half lead as they fell to Rutgers 70-59 and to 1-5 in conference play.
Here are three takeaways from the loss.
The game marked Julian Reese’s first career start in his young collegiate career.
Within his first two minutes on the court, Reese pulled in three of the Terps’ four rebounds, two of them being offensive boards.
With about 14 minutes remaining, Reese lost the ball under the basket resulting in a jumpball but shortly after tried to make up for it. After guard Fatts Russell’s shot as the shot clock hit zero bounced off the rim, Reese pulled in the board and as he put it back up, drew a foul.
The freshman went 1-for-1 from the line and came out after six minutes on the court for center Qudus Wahab’s first minutes of the day. Reese came back into the game with a little under nine minutes to go in the first half.
“Julian’s been practicing well, it’s just a different look for us,” interim head coach Danny Manning said. “He came out, he did some really good things for us.”
Reese had trouble scoring having just one point until there were about five minutes left in the first frame when he hit back-to-back free throws. At that point, he was 0-for-2 from the field but 3-for-4 from the charity stripe.
Reese finished the first half with just three points but led the team with four rebounds, three of those being offensive boards. He also had one assist and one steal in addition to two fouls and a turnover in 12 minutes.
At the beginning of the second half, Reese had a big offensive rebound with about 17 minutes remaining but when the ball was kicked out to him behind the arc, his shot bounced off the rim as Scarlet Knights pulled it in.
On the Terps’ next possession got the ball off a no-look pass from Ayala and sank the layup to extend Maryland’s lead to nine and energize the crowd.
Reese had another basket late in the game when Maryland was down by four to make it a two-point game.
Reese finished the game with nine points shooting 2-for-7 from the field, 0-for-2 from deep and 5-for-6 from the free throw line. He also grabbed seven rebounds and a steal along with one assist in 25 minutes,
Wahab finished the game with four points shooting 1-for-2 from the field and 2-for-2 from the charity stripe. He had four boards and two blocks in 14 minutes.
“Q’s still gonna play minutes. Those two will probably flip flop a little bit more throughout the rest of the season,” Manning said referring to Wahab and Reese.
The Terps capitalized on Rutgers’ turnovers and fouls in what was one of their most complete first halves of the season, but fell apart in the second half.
At the end of the first half, Rutgers turned the ball over 11 times resulting in 18 of Maryland’s 36 first-half points. Rutgers, on the other hand, forced just five turnovers and scored eight points off the takeaways.
With four minutes and 41 seconds remaining in the first half, Rutgers already had 10 team fouls sending the Terps to the double bonus. While Rutgers committed 12 fouls in the first, Maryland had just five fouls.
A stark difference on the stat sheet after the first 20 minutes was the free throws.
While Rutgers was 0-for-1 from the charity stripe with the only player having a shot from the charity stripe being forward Aundre Hyatt.
Maryland had a completely different experience in the first frame going 13-for-15 from free throw line with six different players visiting it in the first half.
“We feel like that gives us a chance to break the defense down, get in the paint, play off of two feet, get it out to wide open shooters or draw fouls.” Manning said about getting paint touches.
Reese was 3-for-4 from the stripe, Scott was 0-for-1 while the rest of the Terps who took free throws were statistically perfect from the spot. Hart was 1-for-1 while both Wahab and Martinez were 2-for-2 and Russell was 5-for-5.
However, Maryland’s first-half lead was erased as Rutgers cleaned things up when it came out of the locker room and because of that, the Scarlet Knights were able to walk away with the victory.
In the second half, Rutgers had five turnovers while Maryland had nine and the Terps only managed to draw seven fouls after drawing 12 in the first 20 minutes. After going 0-for-1 from the charity stripe, Rutgers went 6-for-8 from that spot in the second and Maryland was not able to generate offense leading to its demise.
“The second half, we didn’t come out and finish the way we needed to,” Manning said. “We played well enough in the first half to give ourselves a chance to win. We didn’t finish the way we needed to.”
Maryland once again struggled to hold an opponent’s leading scorer below their average.
Between Iowa’s Keegan Murray, Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn and Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis, the Terps have seen some of the nation’s top scorers in its first few conference games of the season.
Although Ron Harper Jr. doesn’t average 20-plus points per game like those three players, however, he put up numbers like that against the Terps. Coming into this matchup, the guard was averaging a team-high 15.7 points per game and his previous season-high came against Purdue when he put up 30 points against the Boilermakers in early December
Harper Jr. finished the game with 31 points, nearly as many as Murray scored against Maryland when he had a 35-point game. 18 of those career-high 31 points came from behind the arc.
“A few of the shots he made were contested fairly well but just better offense than the defense at that particular time. He’s a top-tier basketball player... scores on all three levels. Got it going today and we couldn’t stop him,” Manning said about Harper Jr.
Once Harper Jr. found his stride, Maryland could not find a way to stop him. The senior guard hit four shots from deep in a five-minute span.
As has been a problem for the Terps all season, including in nonconference play when they faced Vermont, George Mason, George Washington and Brown, Maryland allowed one of the opposing players to put up more than 20 points and this time, it could not make up for that explosiveness.
When it comes to the rest of Big Ten play, Maryland will have to find a way to force its opponents’ top scorers to take difficult shots in attempt to limit their abilities.