Down by a hefty 57-38 margin with time dwindling in the second half to Michigan, Maryland men’s basketball desperately needed to make a push.
Junior forward Donta Scott finished off a layup with the foul to bring Maryland a little closer with under 12 minutes to go. Then freshman forward Julian Reese drilled an uncharacteristic three to breathe some life into the Terps’ comeback.
Graduate guard Fatts Russell soon after forced a turnover on the defensive end and had a chance in transition to bring Maryland back to within 11, a fairly reachable margin relative to where it was before.
However, Russell went full-speed at the basket for a layup and watched as the ball rimmed out. Michigan came right back the other way and a soaring alley-oop courtesy from a pair of Wolverines gifted Michigan another healthy 15-point lead with 10 minutes left.
It was a game of runs, most of which didn’t go in Maryland’s direction, as Michigan held on to a 83-64 win on Tuesday night in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Terps have lost two straight games and five of their last six after the road loss, their ninth total defeat of the 2021-22 season. Maryland is just 9-9 overall and 1-6 in conference play.
“We came out in the first half and didn’t play the way that we were capable of playing,” interim head coach Danny Manning said. “You have to give Michigan some credit... they made shots and it kind of snowballed from there.”
“We got to stick together, we got to grind through it and we gotta somehow find a way.”
Coming off a deflating 11-point loss in College Park to Rutgers, Maryland decided to switch up its typical starting five. Manning chose to put usual role players Xavier Green and Ian Martinez into starting spots over Hakim Hart and Russell.
But at first, Michigan’s strong play neutralized those changes and didn’t allow Maryland to build any kind of momentum right from the start.
Buckets from four different Wolverines quickly put Michigan up 9-4 after a 4-for-5 shooting start and it seemed to be another slow start from Maryland’s side. The Terps have had a knack of kicking off their Big Ten games at a ridiculously low scoring pace, outside of their last game against Rutgers. In the opening minutes of the first half, this one was no different.
Hart and Russell both checked in after the first media timeout. Still, the Terps couldn’t find their footing, a common storyline at this point in the season. Scott knocked down a three-pointer to give Maryland seven points in six minutes, while Michigan held a four-point lead.
The Wolverines’ effort in the paint put them up early and often. They scored 10 of their first 16 points from the paint, led by Caleb Houstan’s eight points on 3-for-3 shooting. And while Michigan compiled a 9-0 run to boost its lead to 20-9, the Terps’ turnovers piled up.
Maryland committed six turnovers before hitting the double-digit point mark.
An easy look inside off an inbound pass for senior guard Eric Ayala brought Maryland back within eight. Those were Ayala’s first points of the evening and he hit just one of his first five shots from the floor while accumulating two turnovers. By the four-minute mark, Maryland’s leading scorer was Scott with five points. He finished the half with a team-high 10 and was the only Terp to score more than two as Maryland trailed by 18 late in the first half.
“I’m just trying to install the fight in these guys, because as long as we fight, it’s really hard to compete against us when we fight and we battle and that makes the game a lot more easier,” Scott said.
Maryland shot 7-for-23 as a team and Michigan forced it into 10 turnovers after 20 minutes. The Terps limped into halftime, down 39-19.
“We also had way too many empty possessions in the first half in terms of turnovers,” Manning said.
Nothing was working offensively in Maryland’s lowest-scoring half of the season. The Wolverines led in just about every offensive and defensive category in the first half, edging the Terps in made three-point shots, points in the paint, rebounds, field goal percentage and steals. Maryland needed to have what felt like a miracle in the second half if it wanted to avoid another loss.
Scott continued to inject life into Maryland’s effort at the start of the second half. He hit his fourth field goal of the evening to give him 12 points, though a 7-2 run from Michigan extended the Wolverines’ advantage to 25.
A few buckets put Maryland on a run of its own and it shrunk the lead to 48-30 with under 16 minutes left in the game.
It was a game of catch-up from there for the Terps, though they scored 17 points coming out of halftime in just under six minutes.
Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson kept halting Maryland from going on any kind of run despite its improved offensive start to the half. The sophomore center added 10 points by the 12-minute mark of the second half, allowing the Wolverines to maintain their 57-40 lead.
Maryland cut the lead to 13 soon after, but that would mostly be it for its comeback attempt on the road. The Wolverines kept on responding with baskets and the Terps couldn’t hold their ground long enough to forge some kind of run.
There was no answer for Dickinson, who was relentless inside and with his precision passing. Maryland simply had no offensive firepower in response to what Michigan had to offer and it faced a 74-54 deficit with under four minutes on the clock.
The Wolverines didn’t need to do much from there on out to close out the Terps by 19 at the end of regulation. Michigan dominated in the paint from tip to finish, outscoring Maryland 44-24 in that area.
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s starting lineup shifted once again. One game after inserting freshman Julian Reese into the starting five, Manning wanted both Martinez and Green to start off Tuesday’s game. It was the first time that both guards started a game this season. The duo subbed off after four minutes on the floor, making way for Hart and Russell, the usual starters. Martinez and Green failed to provide much when all was said and done, though, as they added just two points for the full game. The change to the starting lineup can certainly mean that more changes can come in the future, especially since the season is visibly getting away from Maryland’s grasp.
“We’re at a point now where we’re going to push some buttons, do some things that are a little bit different and see what happens from there but that’s what it is,” Manning said. “Everyone needs to continue to push forward and everyone needs to pull their collective weight and do the things that, you know, we need them to do for our team to be successful.”
2. The Wolverines’ top scorers went to work. While just about everyone on Maryland’s side struggled to get any kind of points, a good portion of Michigan’s starting five excelled against the Terps’ listless defense. The Wolverines had four players finish in double figures, with Dickinson leading the way with 21 points on 10-for-14 shooting. Dickinson, who was fairly questionable to play after missing last game against Illinois, also did a lot of damage on the floor in 30 minutes. He ended with six assists and six rebounds as well. It was an all-around effort on both ends on the floor for Michigan and they outmatched the Terps with a cohesive effort.
3. Maryland’s slide in the Big Ten continued on Tuesday. This loss for Maryland is just another dent in the team’s already-slim postseason hopes. The Terps are now 1-6 in conference play, a mark that not many people expected at the beginning of the season. The only conference win came in double-overtime over Northwestern and they have been otherwise unable to outlast another Big Ten team. With an even 9-9 overall record, the slate for Maryland only gets more difficult ahead. Matchups with Illinois, Rutgers and Indiana round out the rest of January, while a home matchup against Michigan State will kick off the month of February. The Terps need to manufacture a handful of big upsets if it wants to crawl out of the Big Ten’s basement.
“First of all, no one’s going to feel sorry for us,” Manning said. “There’s no pity parties for the Maryland basketball team when we pull up in the gym. Everybody’s going to try to pile on. And we understand that and we’ve gotta come out and we’ve gotta put ourselves in a situation where we’re not allowing that to happen. We’ve got to make sure that we come out and you know, the next day that we have practice, we’re locked in, we’re focused, we have effort, we have energy, we have juice like we have been having in practice, and then we carry that over at the start of the ballgame and run it throughout the ballgame.”