Maryland men’s basketball trailed by 17 before it scored its first points against Michigan, as an insurmountable deficit in the first half was too much for the Terps to come back from. The Wolverines demolished the Terps, 81-46, Sunday evening in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Maryland struggled offensively, scoring its first field goal at the 12:09 mark of the first half. The Terps shot 26% from the field in the game and lost the rebounding battle by 19. Maryland’s 35-point loss is its largest loss since joining the Big Ten in 2014.
“This is a total failure by me to try to get I think somewhat ready,” head coach Kevin Willard said following the game. “Just disappointing coming out, you’re back into league play, and we come out that way.”
Maryland — which started the season 8-0 — has lost its last four games against Power Five opponents by an average of 17.5 points. The Terps dropped to 10-4 on the season and 1-2 in the Big Ten with another tough road game against Rutgers on Thursday.
After an undefeated start to the season that reignited the fanbase and provided optimism in year one under Kevin Willard, Maryland has looked more like the team that was picked to finish 10th in the Big Ten than it has a team that can compete as a contender in the conference.
On the first day of 2023, Maryland’s performance mirrored its games in the final weeks of 2022: a horrific offensive start that led to Maryland finding itself in a hole. This time, however, there was no ladder to climb out.
Michigan dominated from the opening tip on both ends of the floor, leading to a 17-0 Wolverine lead just over five minutes into the game. Maryland missed its first 10 field goals and did not score its first points of the game until the 14:15 minute mark of the first half.
Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson — who openly admits he relishes the opportunity to play Maryland and has manufactured a public feud with the Terps and former coach Mark Turgeon — dominated his matchup against fellow big Julian Reese.
“We’ve got to figure out how to score against bigger teams,” Willard said.
By the time the halfway point came in the first half, Dickinson was up to double-digit points, scoring in the paint and with his soft shooting touch. He finished with 32 and looked every bit of the All-American he is. His two primary defenders, Julian Reese and Patrick Emilien, both fouled out.
Maryland’s offense was putrid, to put it kindly. After its first field goal came about eight minutes into the game, Maryland did not score for another six minutes, which led to the Wolverines extending their lead to 20-plus points.
Maryland finished the first half 4-for-30 from the field and 1-for-9 from three.
“Obviously, [I’m] going to have to make some major changes because this is just not acceptable, and it starts with me,” Willard said.
Not a single starter scored a point for Maryland through the first 13 and a half minutes of the game. Following Hakim Hart’s and-one bucket to give Maryland its seventh point of the day, another scoring drought followed for Maryland. Not even the Great Lakes could provide relief for the droughts Maryland experienced Sunday.
By the time the first 20 minutes were done, Maryland trailed by 31 and had scored just 13 points.
Prior to its game against Maryland, Michigan suffered a heartbreaking two-point upset loss to Central Michigan on Thursday. It was clear the Wolverines were out for vengeance. It just so happened a Maryland team that was ill-equipped to handle Michigan’s intensity and physicality was next up on the schedule.
As the second half ensued, Michigan played at a tempered pace, leading by more than 30 points. Maryland competed in the final 20 minutes of the blowout, but the Terps did it without some of their key players. Donta Scott, Jahmir Young and Hakim Hart were benched to start the second half and did not return until almost 10 minutes into the period. Scott and Young — Maryland’s two best players — combined for 10 points and 4-for-19 shooting in the game.
As the reserves attempted to muster a comeback, Michigan never took its foot off the gas, embarrassing Maryland to the tune of a 35-point win.
“This has nothing to do with the players. This is totally on me and I’ll get it right,” Willard said.
Three things to know
1. Donta Scott is struggling mightily. Maryland will go as far as its star Donta Scott takes it. Scott is undoubtedly Maryland’s best all-around player, and while he got off to a phenomenal start to the season, he has looked out-of-sync and less aggressive in recent weeks. Scott averaged 15.8 points per game through the first seven games of the season, but has scored 9.4 points per game in his last seven games. It’s difficult for an offense to click when its best player is struggling. If Maryland’s offense is going to improve, its star must play better.
2. Dickinson dominated Reese all game. It was no secret Hunter Dickinson is the better and more skilled player than Julian Reese, but on Sunday, Reese didn’t even look like he belonged on the court with the All-American center. Dickinson finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds, while Reese finished with two points and two boards. Reese also fouled out of the game. Maryland’s performance against Dickinson was a sign of things to come against a slew of great big men in the conference.
3. Maryland’s 8-0 start was a fluke. While an 8-0 start to the Kevin Willard era certainly refueled a Maryland basketball program in turmoil, it also raised expectations for a team that evidently does not have the personnel to live up to them. Since starting 8-0, Maryland has lost four of six games — its only two wins were against weak nonconference opponents. It’s time to reset expectations once again for a group that looks closer to its projected 10th-place finish in the Big Ten than it does to a contender. Maryland looked like a surefire NCAA Tournament team a few weeks ago, and now it may be on the outside looking in.