Maryland men’s basketball used a second-half surge to defeat No. 3 Purdue, 68-54, Thursday night.
The Terps couldn’t find their footing in the first half but fired on all cylinders in the second, riding that momentum to a resounding victory.
Here are a few takeaways from the game.
Maryland was able to withstand a slow start by exploding in the second half.
Even though it only trailed by three to one of the nation’s top teams at halftime, it was a rough first half for the Terps offensively. The Terps shot just 31% from the field in the opening 20 minutes, 17% less than Purdue.
Donta Scott didn’t register a single point in the first half, missing all three of his attempts. Jahmir Young and Patrick Emilien had nine and seven first-half points, respectively, leading the team. The Terps’ four starters outside of Young had a combined seven points — Don Carey was scoreless as well.
Then, everything changed. In one of the most dominant halves of basketball Maryland has played — opponent adjusted — in some time, it went on a 29-4 run to bury the Boilermakers in front of ever-noisier XFINITY Center crowd.
Plays that seemed like the culmination of the surge kept coming and coming. First, it was when Carey found Reese, who finished strong over 7-foot-4 superstar Zach Edey. Then, it was Emilien flying high for a transition slam which nearly blew the roof off the building. There couldn’t be more after that, right?
Try two threes from Hakim Hart, an athletic and-one finish from Ian Martinez and a pull-up three by Young on for size. Scott even heaved a late-in-the-shot-clock desperation triple in the game’s waning moments that banked in off the glass. It was just that kind of night for the Terps — whatever they wanted, they got.
“Just trying to limit them to one shot, get out in transition. That’s when we play our best ball, so the crowd was into it, they was bringing the energy and we was taking good shots on our end,” Young said. “We was believing in each other, making the right play and shots were starting to fall.”
Maryland shot 63% from the field in the second half, including a 4-for-5 mark from three. While the Terps were making their shots, Purdue was slumping, allowing them to pull away and turn the game into less of a competition and more of a celebration.
Maryland did the little things right.
The Terps simply out-hustled and out-performed the Boilermakers. They had 12 more rebounds — including a few loose balls that they were first to — and eight more points in the paint, a sector of the court usually belonging to Edey and Edey only. They limited their three-point attempts when they weren’t falling and didn’t force bad shots after a tough first half. It was a smart, well-executed game plan from Willard and company that couldn’t have played out in a more effective manner.
Also, right as its offense peaked, Maryland’s defense locked down and stifled Purdue, utilizing physicality and chaos to its advantage to discombobulate the Boilermakers. Freshman guard Braden Smith, who made his first seven shots, provided little in the final 16 minutes of play.
“I think a lot of that credit needs to go to Maryland, and also our inability to make a shot,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. “So like now, when you’re not making shots, now you can kind of come in with that gap help and then try to load up right there, so I thought they did a good job there, just kind of keeping him out the paint, even though he got in there some, he didn’t get in there as much.”
And of course, Purdue’s offense goes as Edey goes, but he was faced with a difficult challenge from Reese, who perfectly toed the line between exerting physicality and avoiding fouls.
“Just exposure, you know. Just showing up for my team when they really need me against guys that’s getting so highly touted and so highly looked at in the country. And I feel like if I do that we can get the job done like we did today,” Reese said.
Edey had 10 points and five rebounds in the second half — good numbers by most standards but not enough to make up for deficiencies elsewhere. Outside of him and Smith, freshman guard Fletcher Loyer and junior guard Brandon Newman were the only two Purdue players to score, and they had just four points each. Instead of allowing Purdue to answer with a run of its own, Maryland put its foot down and ended the game then and there.
Kevin Willard has his signature year-one win.
Thursday’s result is going to be remembered one of two ways: the game that marked Maryland’s re-emergence as a national power or the game that led Terps fans to believe that was the case to no avail.
Willard made it clear after the win which way he plans on taking it.
“Oh, we’re gonna sustain this. This isn’t — we’re there. We’ve got the No. 13 recruiting class in the country. We’ve won some pretty big games, we’ve won on the road, we’ve won neutral site. I think the biggest thing, again, that group has laid the foundation down,” Willard said, pointing toward the locker room. “Every recruit that came and watched us work, every recruit that watches us practice, every high school coach that comes, watches us practice, they all love it. They all love what we’re doing.”
Willard has made it clear that he is not satisfied with getting one marquee win and has his sights on greater goals come March, and perhaps there is an even more momentous and season-defining victory coming for the Terps in the Big Ten or NCAA Tournament. However, there’s no regular-season win coming that’ll top Thursday’s, and given that it was at home and over a top-five team, it’s hard to imagine that there will be a more defining moment for the way Maryland is talked about nationally than this one.
They would never admit it or put it to the test, but the Terps could likely lose out at this point and still make the NCAA Tournament. They’re shaping up to finish as a top four-or-so team in what ranks as one of the top conferences in college basketball. Maryland still has to prove it away from the friendly confines of XFINITY Center, but it has the firepower to play with and beat the nation’s best. That was proved in what quickly turned into a demolition of a team squarely in the conversation for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
In short, Maryland can no longer be considered a program lost and waiting to be reborn, maybe a year or two away. It’s back, competing for conference titles and more than capable of making noise on the national stage.