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Takeaways from No. 20 Maryland men’s basketball’s blowout loss to No. 16 UCLA

The Terps were dominated by the Bruins Wednesday night.

UCLA v Maryland Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Coming off back-to-back losses to Wisconsin and Tennessee, No. 20 Maryland men’s basketball returned home to College Park with an opportunity to bounce back in a big way in front of a ready-to-explode XFINITY Center crowd against No. 16 UCLA.

Almost immediately after the game started, though, it become abundantly clear that was not going to happen. The Terps came out cold as can be and the Bruins pulled away early and didn’t let up, handing Maryland its largest loss margin-wise since 2018.

Here are a few takeaways from the game.

Maryland was doomed from the start.

In similar fashion to their prior game against Tennessee, the Terps were apathetic on offense to start Wednesday’s game. They didn’t put points on the board until five minutes had elapsed, starting 0-for-8 from the field. It didn’t get much better from there, as they only mustered 20 points by halftime, shooting almost 25% worse than UCLA from the field.

For most of the game, the Terps looked lost on offense, unable to effectively push toward the rim for close looks but also incapable of knocking down shots from outside.

The game got out of hand quickly, as Maryland trailed by as much as 30 in the first half and 38 in the second. The frustration was tangible at XFINITY Center, as with every missed shot, turnover or UCLA basket, the crowd would let out an audible groan that eventually led to boos and the fans heading home early.

While Maryland never gave up and was still hustling throughout the game — especially when Terps head coach Kevin Willard emptied his bench later in the game mixed up his lineups — it was clear that UCLA was the fresher team.

UCLA head coach Mick Cronin and Willard both cited the the teams’ recent schedules as a reason for the Terps’ slow start and lack of ability to match the Bruins’ energy.

“We had played four of our last five at home, and I think three in a row at home, and they’re coming off three straight bloodbaths,” Cronin said. “So their emotional tank might have been a little bit on empty ... I just believe in the schedule. We were fortunate we caught them beat up.”

“We have not really had a day off since before Louisville [on Nov. 29], you know, because we traveled, and the 9 p.m. games, get back at 5 a.m., that’s really not a day off,” Willard added.

Jahmir Young had his worst game as a Terp.

In many games this season, graduate guard Jahmir Young has been Maryland’s best offensive player. During the Terps’ recent stretch of games against high-level opponents, he stole the show on multiple occasions. He had a game-high 24 points in the team’s win over Illinois, including a game-sealing 3-pointer with just seconds left on the clock. He also had 17 points at Wisconsin and a team-leading 18 against Tennessee. Even when the the Terps’ offense was struggling, Young looked like the guy to go to for a much-needed bucket.

That was certainly not the case Wednesday, and it was clear from the jump that Young didn’t bring his A-game to the XFINITY Center. He committed five turnovers — all in the first half — and scored just three points, all on free throws. He went 0-for-8 from the field.

“Jahmir has been playing phenomenal, but I thought their hard hedges and I thought [UCLA guard] Tyger [Campbell] and their weak side coverage really bothered Jahmir ... I thought their pick-and-roll defense on Jahmir, especially early, was fantastic,” Willard said.

The Terps need their transfer-turned-star point guard to run the offense effectively to compete with top teams like UCLA.

Despite the rough outing Wednesday, past results would indicate that it was an anomaly and nothing to expect on a regular basis from Young moving forward. He was clearly discouraged by the performance, as after the fans cleared out of the building, he was back out on the court late at night getting practice shots up. For someone that has played as much as he has recently — Young had played 100 minutes in a span of nine days over the Terps’ three most recent games before Wednesday — the eight-day break before Maryland’s next game could be a good opportunity to recharge.

To panic, or not to panic?

Wednesday’s loss — more specifically the dominant nature of it — certainly brought Maryland’s lofty expectations a bit closer to earth just a week after being ranked No. 13 in the AP poll. Now sitting at No. 20 in the rankings, the Terps will almost certainly drop out of the top 25 and have their expectations tempered before Big Ten play starts.

Willard admitted after the Tennessee loss that his team “needs to win the 3-point battle” because they aren’t built to push other teams around. That hasn’t been the case as of late, as the Terps shot just 12-for-51 from beyond the arc in their last two games. It’s clear that streaky offensive play could be the Achilles heel of a team that plays with high effort and intensity on the defensive end.

Still, Willard isn’t ready to hit the panic button.

“This is the first time this team has had to go through adversity, and we’re figuring it out a little bit on the fly ... This team will bounce back. I got a lot of confidence in these guys. I like where we’re at,” Willard said. “We’re still in a great spot. [UCLA] kicked our ass today, give them credit.”

The reality is that Maryland is probably not as good as its 8-0 start and No. 13 ranking led some to believe, but also isn’t as bad as a three-game losing streak punctuated by a 27-point loss would indicate. It will likely finish somewhere in between and be firmly in the NCAA Tournament conversation come March.

“Obviously, we’re not that much better than Maryland ... what [Willard’s] done early to have all these people here and do this this quickly is a miracle,” Cronin added, complimenting the job Willard, who he admitted is a close friend of his, has done early in his tenure.

Losses to either Saint Peter’s or UMBC would be reason to seriously worry about this year’s Maryland squad, but chances are the Terps will leave those two games with victories after some much-needed rest. Once Big Ten play fully kicks into gear, that’s when it’ll become clearer what this team is truly capable of and where Willard’s first team in College Park stands in the national conversation.