Maryland men’s basketball’s brilliant first-half performance against UCLA was erased by a dreadful showing in the latter 20 minutes, but Jahmir Young refused to let the game slip away. He scored 12 of Maryland’s final 19 points as the Terps escaped Pauley Pavilion with a 69-60 victory on Friday night.
The Terps (8-4) will go as far as Young takes them, which was made crystal-clear in the victory. He finished with a career-high 37 points — scoring over half of the team’s points in both halves.
“[Young] was phenomenal. He had it going early, he felt it,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said.
Maryland came out of the gates hot, bolting out to an eight-point advantage, which eventually bloomed to 13 as Young refused to miss. He hit six of his first seven shots, including his first four from three.
Maryland’s efficiency was off the charts in the opening 20 minutes, as it made 52% of its shots — seven of its 12 attempts from beyond the arc and 10 of its 12 free throws — all while holding the Bruins (5-6) to a 32.4% clip from the field. The Terps led 43-28 at the break.
It was a good thing Maryland was sharp early, because it reverted back to its early-season offensive ways in the second half.
The Terps got out to a 50-31 advantage early in the second half, but that quickly dwindled. Ten minutes later, the Terps had scored just seven more points, and 27 points by the Bruins had cut the lead to two.
All said, Maryland went without a made shot for over nine minutes, and had just three made field goals in the first 14 minutes of the second half.
Things then went from bad to worse when Julian Reese fouled out. With Caelum Swanton-Rodger having fouled out earlier in the game in just three minutes of playing time, the Terps were forced to play small-ball for the remainder of the game.
With UCLA poised to take back over the lead, it was once again Young who gave the Terps a boost. Breaking the team’s unfathomably long field goal-less streak, he responded a few seconds later with another jumper, giving Maryland the momentum back.
“At the end of the game, you know, we needed a bucket, and with [Reese] out, we put the ball in [Young’s] hands and he made some big plays,” said Willard.
That spurt seemed to provide confidence, as Maryland would hold UCLA without a field goal in the final 5:27 of play, ensuring that Young’s heroics weren’t for naught.
Maryland will hope its first road win of the season, albeit against an ailing UCLA team which has lost four in a row, is the spark it needs with Big Ten play on the horizon. When the Terps needed it most, Young stepped up and pushed them over the finish line.
Three things to know
1. Jahmir Young was lights-out. The one positive constant during Maryland’s early-season struggles was the play of Young, leading Maryland in just about every statistical category and doing all he could to keep the Terps afloat. After a 37-point performance Friday, he has scored 129 points in his last four games.
2. Julian Reese had his worst outing of the season. On the other hand, Reese looked lost against the Bruins. He missed both of his field goal attempts and was errant on five of his six free throws. He also corralled just four rebounds, tying a season-low. All that came before fouling out with over five minutes left in the second half.
3. Maryland is heating up from distance. Maryland has quietly shot the 3-ball well over the past three games. Once the second-worst 3-point shooting team in the country, the Terps have made 32 of their last 79 deep balls, a clip over 40%.
Despite that, they couldn’t do much of anything right offensively in the second half, and that included a 1-of-10 outing from three. Still, making eight of 22 shots from distance overall is a stark improvement from some of Maryland’s early-season performances.