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Maryland men’s basketball hammers Minnesota, 81-46

The Terps dominated the Golden Gophers for all 40 minutes.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics
Twitter @TerrapinHoops

Maryland men’s basketball’s has looked like a completely different team on the road and at home in conference play this season. The Terps were 6-5 in the Big Ten entering Saturday night’s game at Minnesota; six wins at home and five losses on the road.

What was the best way for Maryland to ease concerns of its road struggles? How about picking up its second-largest conference road win in program history.

Maryland out-skilled, out-classed and out-toughed an inferior Minnesota team, 81-46, to capture its first conference road win of the season and move to 7-5 in the Big Ten.

Maryland was primed to capture a much-needed road win against a depleted Minnesota team that sits at the very bottom of the Big Ten standings — Minnesota has just one conference win. The 35-point win was Maryland’s first 30-point conference win since 2016.

“I’m proud of these guys. We wanted to come out and play a good, solid 40 minutes.” head coach Kevin Willard said. “The way we ended the half and the way we came out at the half I thought was really impressive.”

Maryland entered Saturday averaging 15 more points at home than on the road. But the biggest difference for Willard was the defensive intensity.

Maryland answered its coach’s call, locking in defensively and shutting down Minnesota at every turn. Maryland held Minnesota to its second-lowest point total of the season. The Golden Gophers shot just 34% from the field and 14% from three.

For a team that struggles shooting the ball — Maryland is statistically the worst 3-point shooting team in the Big Ten — being away from College Park presented no obstacle for Maryland on Saturday. The Terps flipped the script on their customary slow road starts.

Maryland made eight of its first 11 shots, including two 3-pointers. The Terps shot a whopping 60% from three in the first half.

By the 12-minute mark in the first half, Maryland made more field goals than Minnesota attempted, leading to a 10-point advantage. The Terps were not satisfied with a mere 10-point lead. Maryland exploded on an 11-0 run, silencing an already lethargic Minnesota crowd.

Donta Scott and Julian Reese sparked the run, with Reese dominating inside and Scott finding a rhythm from beyond the arc. Scott and Reese combined for 21 first-half points.

“I think he’s playing unselfish, he’s playing physical. I think he’s playing some really good basketball,” Willard said about Reese.

Jahmir Young has been Maryland’s best player this season, scoring 20 points or more in five of his last seven games. If there was ever a time for Young to struggle, or simply be less aggressive, it was against an inept Minnesota squad. By the time Young scored his first points on a 3-pointer with just under six minutes to go in the first half, Maryland had already built a 19-point lead.

“Our focus was on the defensive end. I know my shot is gonna come. I know my teammates are gonna get me open,” Young said.

At the halftime break, Maryland led 41-21. Maryland’s 41 first-half points were the most it has scored in the opening 20 minutes in any Big Ten game this season — 21 was the fewest it let up.

Maryland started the second half similar to how it started the first, toying with an opponent that didn't look like it belonged on the same court. Through the first five minutes of the latter half, Maryland outscored Minnesota, 18-5, jumping out to a 30-point lead.

From that point forward, it was never a contest. Maryland asserted itself as the more physically imposing team on both ends. Minnesota committed 16 turnovers, leading to 23 points for Maryland. The Terps also had a season-high 17 assists.

Willard used the word “rattled” to describe his team playing on the road a few weeks ago. But against Minnesota, Maryland looked anything but rattled, cruising past the Golden Gophers with ease before a difficult road matchup with Michigan State on Tuesday.

“As competitive as this league is, you’ve got to just keep grinding out each game. You can't worry about who’s winning and who’s losing, you’ve just got to worry about yourself,” Willard said.

Maryland’s starters took a seat with plenty of time on the clock. Four Maryland players finished in double figures — Young had 14, Scott finished with 13, Reese with 16 and Ian Martinez with 11. Fifteen players entered the game for Maryland and 11 made it into the scoring column.

Three things to know

1. Maryland securing a road win is huge. Yes, Minnesota is a horrible team. And if relegation existed in college basketball, the Golden Gophers would certainly be eligible for relegation from the Big Ten. But that doesn’t take away from the fact a road win was crucial for Maryland, and it went to Minnesota and did exactly what it needed, and was supposed to do. Regardless of the opponent, Maryland won a conference road game. Breaking their road losing streak can give the Terps confidence moving forward with an incredibly tough road test coming up against Michigan State on Tuesday.

2. Maryland’s bench stepped up. Willard cut the rotation to seven in recent outings due to a lack of bench production. Ian Martinez and Patrick Emilien remained in the rotation as the sixth and seventh men, but Jahari Long got little playing time against Indiana. Long got significant playing time against Minnesota. While he didn’t fill the stat sheet, and it may just be an indictment on the opponent more than anything, Long playing meaningful minutes is noteworthy. Martinez had one of his best performances of the season, finishing with 11 points. Maryland’s bench combined for 24 points, while some of that came in garbage time minutes.

3. Maryland already surpassed its win total from last season. Maryland is 16-7 this season, which means it already surpassed its win total from last season with eight games to go — the 2021-22 Terps finished 15-17. Last year was a tumultuous and chaotic year for obvious reasons, which led to Maryland’s worst season of this century, so it’s not exactly the best benchmark, but it still serves as another indicator of just how fast Willard has turned Maryland around. For a team that was picked to finish 10th in the Big Ten before the season, Maryland has solidified its spot as one of the better teams in the conference.