Maryland men’s basketball fought against Iowa on the road Sunday, but it ultimately did not do enough to compete down the stretch in an 81-67 loss.
The Terps lost their fourth straight conference road game to begin the season, with the average margin of loss being 17 points per game. Maryland fell to 11-6 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten, a conference that never fails to produce bumps in the road.
“I thought we took a step in the right direction, believe it or not,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said on the postgame radio show. “I thought we battled on the road, got down 14, kept battling. Came out in the second half we did some nice things, we just, our defensive intensity on the road is really lacking.”
Willard’s crew will have the majority of the week to regroup before a rematch against Michigan at XFINITY Center on Thursday. Let’s dive into the takeaways from Sunday’s loss.
Maryland cannot afford multiple scoring droughts and needs to find offensive stability.
After four quick points from sophomore forward Julian Reese, Maryland went up 4-0 — the same lead it had on the road against Rutgers on Jan. 5.
Against the Hawkeyes on Sunday, Iowa immediately went on an 8-0 run after trailing 4-0. Against Rutgers in early January, Rutgers rattled off a 15-0 run in response to a 4-0 deficit. Those quick leads that dissipated were the only leads that the Terps held in both of those games.
While Maryland’s 3:55 scoring drought against the Hawkeyes wasn’t nearly as long as the 8:45 one it suffered against the Scarlet Knights, the themes were similar. Maryland has yet to prove it has the firepower to overcome lengthy scoring droughts in Big Ten play, especially on the road.
Maryland cut the Iowa lead to 8-6 with 14:53 to play in the first half, but then it didn’t score again until two minutes and 36 seconds later. After Jahari Long hit a jumper to cut Iowa’s lead to 12-10 with 11:39 until halftime, the Terps went on another extended scoring drought lasting three minutes and five seconds.
The Terps trailed 43-33 at halftime for an acceptable offensive performance, especially considering some of their first-half performances against the likes of UCLA, Michigan, Tennessee and Rutgers.
Maryland came out scorching hot to begin the second half, going on an 8-0 run and cutting the deficit to as low as two points. Again, though, it was a scoreless spell that haunted the Terps.
Graduate guard Don Carey hit his first triple of the game to cut Iowa’s lead to 47-44 with 16:34 to play. Thereafter, the Terps didn’t score for another four minutes and 33 seconds, and the Iowa lead ballooned to double digits.
The Terps continued to fight, but the frequent scoreless stretches put them in an insurmountable spot.
Julian Reese started strong but was in foul trouble again.
Reese came out with a purpose Sunday, scoring Maryland’s first six points, forcing a held ball and securing a steal within the first five and a half minutes.
But he once again was in foul trouble — a common theme for the second-year big in Big Ten play. Reese had at least four fouls in five of Maryland’s first six conference games. With backup big Patrick Emilien out — The Washington Post’s Emily Giambalvo reported he had a boot on his foot — the Terps needed him to stay on the floor.
Reese never fouled out Sunday — he finished with 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting, six rebounds, two assists, four turnovers and four fouls — but played just 26 minutes. The Terps clearly had a different look with Reese on the floor than on the bench.
“I think [Julian] is making great strides,” Willard said. “Again, I’m happy with the way he’s progressed. Especially, he looks like he’s back from the injury full, which is big.”
The Baltimore native picked up his second foul before the halfway point of the first half, but Willard needed to continue to play him in spurts to keep the game within arm’s reach. When Reese was pulled with 5:50 remaining in the first half, the Terps were trailing just 25-19 after a Hakim Hart made free throw. Reese was forced back into action just 34 seconds later after Iowa extended the lead to 10 and Willard called a timeout.
“Foul trouble for [Julian] hasn’t been — it’s been kind of just unlucky fouls, really. But he’s progressing,” Willard said.
Reese’s absence was never more clear than early in the second half. Reese picked up his third foul as Maryland cut the lead to 47-44, and he was pulled at the under-16 media timeout. Reese was forced back in about a minute and a half later, but the damage was done. A foul on 6-foot-11 freshman Caelum Swanton-Rodger resulted in three points in the middle of a damaging 8-0 run by Iowa.
Reese was rendered mainly ineffective in the second half. He finished it with zero points, three rebounds, two assists, two turnovers, two fouls and 14 minutes played.
“He really didn’t have foul trouble in the second half if you think about it,” Willard said.
Though Reese started the game well, he wasn’t on the court consistently enough to get into the rhythm of the game. Willard said after the game that Emilien would probably be out “awhile.” The Terps need Reese to stay on the floor now more than ever, and he needs to fix his foul trouble issues sooner rather than later.
Iowa dominated in transition.
Iowa finished Sunday with 15 fast break points in 40 minutes. Maryland had zero.
Willard noted Thursday that transition defense would be his team’s biggest challenge on that end of the floor, and his scouting report became prophetic.
Twelve of Iowa’s fast break points came off Maryland missed shots. Ten of those 12 points came off missed or blocked layups or dunks.
“They’re gonna get some buckets in transition, especially at home,” Willard said. “I just thought their execution in the half court was really the difference.”
The Terps only finished Sunday with 12 turnovers — 1.5 fewer than their average in conference play — but missed shots hurt them more than anything. Iowa was able to run out in space and thrive in an area it has mastered.
Maryland has had its moments as a good-to-great defensive team, but it is not good enough offensively to compete when teams are getting easy baskets in transition — like the Hawkeyes did.