Without its top scorer in senior guard Eric Ayala, Maryland men’s basketball put up more than a solid fight against No. 3 Purdue, but ultimately fell 62-61 on the road on Sunday.
It came down to the last possession with Donta Scott, however, Purdue came up with the ball in the paint and the clock expired on the Terps’ upset hopes. With the loss, Maryland is now 11-14 and 3-11 in conference play as its losing skid extends to five.
“I thought we did some things well enough to give us a chance to win,” interim head coach Danny Manning said. “We didn’t get the outcome that we wanted, but that effort and moxie gave us the chance to compete with one of the better teams in the country... no moral victories, but proud of the effort that we had.”
Here are three takeaways from the Terps’ nail-biting loss.
The Terps hung around for much longer than many expected.
Maryland and Purdue are two teams headed in very opposite directions, especially when looking at this season so far.
Looking at Maryland, it has been a season of chaos, to say the least. The program’s long-tenured former head coach Mark Turgeon parted ways with the program after a rocky start and a negative response from the fan base. But then the losses continued to pile up after interim head coach Danny Manning grabbed the reins of his new position. Maryland came into West Lafayette with a not-so-stellar 11-13 overall record and a 3-10 record in the Big Ten. The Terps entered Sunday’s game on a season-high four-game losing streak.
Purdue, on the other hand, is a contender for a national championship when March rolls around. Head coach Matt Painter leads what is arguably the best offensive team in the country. Before its matchup with Maryland, the Boilermakers were winners of 21 of their first 25 games, as well as six of their last seven.
It was no surprise when Purdue opened as 15.5 point favorites in their own arena. The real shocker came when Maryland held its own, and even looked like the better team in plenty of stretches, without Ayala present.
Not many people expected this to be as close as it was, especially in the first half. Maryland maintained a lead for just shy under 16 minutes in the first half and went into the break down just three points. The real effort was shown on defense, a complete and utter 180 from the Terps’ previous game against Iowa, in which they conceded a season-high 110 points in College Park. Purdue averages around 83 points per game, but Maryland contained its offense over the course of the first 20 minutes.
Purdue’s 26 first-half points came on just 11-for-27 shooting and it finished the opening half just 22% from deep. Maryland undoubtedly made the first half competitive, and the start to the second half was even more inspiring. The Terps even held a 40-29 lead with 14:20 minutes remaining after a 17-3 run, though Purdue’s late lead with a few ticks on the clock proved to be enough after its 12-point comeback.
Maryland may have eventually lost, but this was easily one of its best showings in the Big Ten this season. The fight and grit are still there for the Terps despite the program’s disappointing record, and they showed that even without Ayala’s assistance.
“It was really good, I’m really proud of the guys, they fought, we all battled, stuck together,” Scott said about the team’s effort. “And we just said this game, is all about heart. It’s not about skill, it’s not about who’s bigger, who’s taller, who’s faster, it’s all about heart. And the guys came out, they showed a ton of heart.”
Maryland couldn't take down Purdue with Eric Ayala absent and a lack of depth scoring.
Ayala started in all 24 of Maryland’s regular-season games before the team faced Purdue. He’s the Terps’ leader on the court, and not to mention the top-scoring option on any given possession. Averaging 34.1 minutes and 15.1 points per game, he’s also the best option Maryland has from deep.
“We’ll get some some tests run and we’ll make sure that we can give him peace of mind with the evaluation, the medical evaluation, and we’ll go from there,” Manning said after the game about Ayala’s status.
Even though Ayala (wrist) has certainly struggled recently going a combined 12-for-50 over the last four games — all of which have been losses for the Terps — Maryland still needed him in some capacity to have any kind of chance to pull off the massive upset in West Lafayette.
There is also not a laundry list of teams that can beat the No. 3 program in the nation on their own floor without their primary scorer and Maryland was not the exception on Sunday afternoon.
Maryland held its own for the majority of the contest, though. Jaden Ivey’s lackluster performance likely had something to do with it. However, the lack of scoring on the Terps’ end eventually did them in.
Fatts Russell added 10 points in the first half and looked like the best player on the floor for Maryland, finishing with a game-high 24 points. But once again, the Terps were let down by their lack of depth scoring against a Purdue team that has an abundance of just that. Only 13 of Maryland’s points in the first half came from someone unless not named Fatts Russell.
Maryland’s scoring mostly came from Russell the rest of the way, with only two other Terps hitting the seven-point mark. Russell, forward Donta Scott and Qudus Wahab were the only Maryland players to score at least seven or more. That trio accounted for nearly 70% of Maryland’s scoring.
The bench points from Maryland’s side ended at 10 total, which just isn’t enough to take down a team like Purdue, no matter how poorly the home team played compared to its typical standard.
Guard Hakim Hart — who presumably should’ve stepped into a much greater scoring role with Ayala out — finished with just six points on 3-for-7 shooting.
Maryland did its best containing one of the nation’s best in Jaden Ivey, while Fatts Russell impressed.
If Maryland wanted any shot to pull off a road miracle, it needed to do its very best to shut down one of the top offenses in the nation. On that gifted offense which is fifth in the nation in scoring offense, four players average double-digits in scoring: Jaden Ivey, Zach Edey, Trevion Williams and Sasha Stefanovic.
All four of those players may have scored in double figures, but Maryland didn’t make it easy for that talented group of elite scorers.
Boilermakers star guard Jaden Ivey had the most notably poor performance out of the quartet, despite hitting the go-ahead and-one layup with 13.1 seconds left to secure the win for Purdue. Ivey, who entered Sunday’s matchup with an average of 17.7 points per game on 48% shooting, finished with 11 points on a dismal 2-for-9 clip.
Ivey picked up three fouls before he even scored a single point, which came in the second half. His first half was a forgettable one as he went 0-for-4 from the floor.
Edey and Williams might just be the country’s best duo in the paint, and they combined for 22 points, but that was somewhat expected. Maryland held Stefanovic to 5-for-13 shooting from the floor, though he ended with a team-high 17.
Still, there is something to be said about how Maryland contained Ivey, who is a very explosive and prolific player. Holding Ivey to 11 points when he played for 32 minutes is quite the accomplishment for a defense that has had a knack of giving up big games to big-time players.
Then on the other side of things, Russell may have had his best effort in a Maryland uniform. Russell scored 24 points, 13 more than the next best Terp, and added a few team-highs with nine rebounds and six assists. He did have five turnovers, but his ability to draw fouls and collect steals on the defensive end outweighed that one flaw.
“I knew Eric [Ayala] wasn’t playing. I knew I was gonna have to be at least a little bit more aggressive, you know, control the game,” Russell said. “I just didn’t do enough and we’re gonna look back at it and see things that we did wrong... and just try to correct them.”
Without Russell, it would’ve likely been Maryland’s lowest-scoring performance of the season. He was the Terps’ spark plug all throughout the contest, and if it wasn't for his season-high in points, Maryland may not have been able to keep it as close.