Maryland men’s basketball is in a different weight class than Minnesota, and it proved that by leaving no doubts in Saturday night’s 81-46 road win over the Golden Gophers.
Though the Terps were (and are) significantly better than Minnesota, the win was no small feat. The victory marked Maryland’s first road win in Big Ten play this season, removing a dreary cloud hanging over the Terps’ recent success.
Maryland led by as much as 42 in Minneapolis, beating down on the Gophers for 40 minutes straight and executing at an incredibly high rate. The Terps shot 52.4% from the field and a scorching 42.9% from deep in the win. Sophomore forward Julian Reese, graduate guard Jahmir Young, senior forward Donta Scott and junior guard Ian Martinez combined for 54 points.
Let’s dive into the takeaways from the Terps’ largest Big Ten road victory in program history.
A fast start and blistering shooting gave the Terps everything they needed on the road.
Maryland needed a first half like it had Saturday in the worst of ways.
Before its first of two matchups with the Golden Gophers, the Terps were a perfect 6-0 at home and a bleak 0-5 on the road in Big Ten play. The numbers perhaps developed a solution as to why the Terps were so good in their own building and a different team in others, but unquantifiable quirks are life on the road in the sport. But even with a perfect blueprint, Saturday’s start could not have played out better.
The Terps hit each of their first three shots, allowing them to set up their signature press and dictate the tempo from the jump. Maryland raced out to an 18-8 lead, forcing Minnesota head coach Ben Johnson to burn his first timeout with 12:29 until halftime. Maryland made eight of its first 11 shots — including both of its first two attempts from deep — and notched five early assists to just one turnover.
“We wanted to come out and really defend at a high level,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said on the postgame radio show. “And then offensively, just get the ball moving side to side because they try to play a little bit of a matchup zone and they get confused if you get the ball going from side to side and I thought we got a lot of really good looks early. I thought the ball movement was really good early.”
Regardless, Minnesota had no answer for a hot shooting Maryland team. Heck, who would expect a hot shooting Maryland team? Prior to Saturday night, the Terps were the 12th-best 3-point shooting team in the conference and ranked dead last in effective field goal percentage in Big Ten play, per KenPom.
But the Terps blazed through the rest of the frame, ballooning their comfortable start into a commanding 30-11 lead at the first-half under-eight media timeout. Maryland hit five of its first seven 3-pointers, and Scott was playing arguably his best offensive basketball of the season. The Terps were up 19 points without a single point from their best player: Young.
That would not be the case for long — Young finished the half with seven points — and the unrelenting Terps ultimately went into halftime with an insurmountable 41-21 lead. Maryland shot 56.7% and made six of its 10 3-point attempts in the first 20 minutes. It turned the Golden Gophers over nine times — turning those into 13 points — and held a 16-11 advantage on the boards in the first half.
When Maryland shoots like it did in the first half, it can play with anyone in the country, not just beat up on a Big Ten doormat. Slow starts had haunted the Terps in each of their previous Big Ten road games, making Saturday a complete reversal of the past.
The Terps shared the wealth, dominated the turnover battle and restored their peak intensity.
Maryland took great care of the ball in its first six home conference games, posting a 1.17 assist-to-turnover ratio. In its previous five road games, Maryland gave the ball away more times than it assisted, recording a 0.71 assist-to-turnover ratio.
That wasn’t the case against the Golden Gophers, as Maryland dished out 17 assists to just five turnovers. It was the Terps’ fifth performance in their last six games with single-digit turnovers.
Maryland’s press and defensive intensity was also off the charts, turning 16 Minnesota turnovers into 23 points. The Golden Gophers generated two points off Maryland turnovers.
“Just urgency. Just taking every possession like it’s the last possession, just treat it like it’s the last,” Young said on the Big Ten Network postgame show. “We haven’t had a road win this year in conference play, so just coming in with that hunger, that attitude that we have to get this one, this is a must-win.”
While the shooting numbers will surely regress, Maryland’s intensity and attention to detail does not have to. If the Terps can continue to focus on the little things, defend at a high level and out-physical their opponent — no matter where and when — they will be playing their best basketball when it matters most.
“Coming out flat on defense on the road in the previous times, we [were] taking a lot of L’s doing that,” Reese said on the Big Ten Network postgame show. “I feel like doing it this time really helped get us an edge and get off to a smooth running and help us win the game.”
Maryland benefited from doing what it was supposed to do.
The Terps had nothing to gain and everything to lose as big favorites against the Golden Gophers. With three straight wins and computer rankings floating from No. 23 to No. 32, the Terps had played themselves off the bubble and firmly into the NCAA Tournament field.
Maryland has successfully avoided any quadrant three or quadrant four losses, events that could be disastrous for teams hoping to play in the postseason. As of Saturday, the only two quadrant four games remaining on the Terps’ schedule would be their two remaining games against the Golden Gophers.
Maryland did it what it was supposed to do. Good teams don’t just beat the bad ones, they run them out of the building. Minnesota never had any chance against Maryland, validating the players’ buy-in and commitment to staying even-keeled under Willard in year one. The Terps easily could have looked ahead in a road game against one of the worst power conference teams in America, but they focused on getting on the board in league road play, putting on a clinic in all facets of the game.
With the victory, Maryland surpassed its win total from the 2021-22 season — a 15-17 campaign that saw two different head coaches and more calamity than calm. It must be rewarding for Scott, Hart, Reese and Martinez, who stuck around under the new coach and are reaping the fruits of their labor and the team’s fight through adversity.
Now on a four-game winning streak, Maryland has made business strictly business and nothing more. A first league road win, no matter who against, is a big relief. The matter in which the Terps did it is an encouraging sign of where they stand.
“With as big, as many teams are in this league, and as competitive as this league is, you just got to keep grinding out each game,” Willard said. “And you can’t worry about who’s winning and who’s losing, you just got to worry about yourself and just take care of yourself and again, that’s what I was really happy with these guys, like they’re starting to understand where we are. It’s February, games matter, every [game matters], and so to come here on the road and play the way we did was really impressive.”