It was far from comfortable, but Maryland men’s basketball staved off an upset-minded Nicholls State squad Tuesday night, 73-67.
Tevon Saddler’s Colonels (4-7) led for a large part of the second half, but a late push by Maryland (7-4) ultimately helped the Terps extend their home winning streak to 18 games.
Here are some takeaways from the game.
Maryland’s inconsistency reared its ugly head
Inefficient lapses have plagued Maryland in each of its losses this season, and both nearly costed it Tuesday. While the Terps found their rhythm in the latter half of the second period, they needed every last shot to crawl past the Colonels.
An overall shooting performance of 35.5% from the field and 65.5% from the free-throw line came all too close to handing Maryland a season-altering loss.
Maryland played with little energy from the opening tip, notably slow in shot contests on the perimeter. While it used its size through interior defense to stifle Nicholls in the paint, the Colonels, led by Dante Smith and Jalen White’s eight combined 3-pointers, torched the Terps from deep.
More than half of the Colonels’ made field goals came from distance, and a stretch of three in a row gave them a game-high nine-point lead early in the second half.
It wasn’t until that deficit when the Terps seemed to finally understand the trouble they were facing, as they scored 31 points in the final 9:54 of the contest.
Spurts of sluggishness have become a defining characteristic for this Terps squad, and the fact that they just barely overcame a mid-major opponent at home gives a grim outlook ahead of a road trip to take on UCLA — a team facing struggles of its own.
“Yeah, I’m hoping to play better on the road,” Terps head coach Kevin Willard said.
Julian Reese couldn’t get going offensively
Words that have been seldom echoed this season had audible volume Wednesday: Julian Reese struggled offensively.
Against a small Nicholls lineup, Willard’s plan was clearly to play through the junior forward. But the Colonels, knowing Maryland’s struggles from the perimeter, flooded the paint, forcing Reese into 10 misses on 13 shot attempts.
Despite being fouled early and often, Reese looked like his old self at the charity stripe. He had been having a career season from the line entering Tuesday’s contest, but went a dismal 3-for-11 against Nicholls.
Fortunately for him, Reese made his mark defensively. He finished with a career-best six blocks and a team-high 13 rebounds.
Donta Scott and Jahari Long came up clutch
Jahmir Young may have led the Terps with 23 points, but timely plays from Donta Scott and Jahari Long were paramount in their victory.
Scott’s struggles this season have been well-documented, but when he was needed most, the fifth-year senior came through. When Maryland found itself down nine, he scored eight of the team’s next 12 points, including two of his four made threes.
“I know that I need to be a leader and have to step up to try to get these guys together,” Scott said.
As for Long, who played 24 minutes while leading the Terps with a positive plus-minus of 13 — he had two of the biggest shots of the game. His first made three gave the Terps a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, and his second all but put the game on ice with 1:10 remaining.
“We’re just happy for [Long] to be able to contribute like we know he can, get out there, get open [shots],” Young said. “And really, he just helped us with his energy on the defensive end as well.”
Long added four rebounds, three assists and two forced turnovers.