CHICAGO — Sixth-seeded Maryland men’s basketball fell to third-seeded Indiana, 70-60, in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament late Friday night.
Indiana advanced to play No. 10-seed Penn State in the second semifinal, and the winner of that game will play the winner of the first semifinal between top-seeded Purdue and No. 13-seed Ohio State in the title game on Sunday.
Here are a few takeaways from Friday night’s game.
Indiana’s stars outplayed Maryland’s.
In March, games often come down to which team’s best players show up on a given night. Indiana’s star power can match any team in the country with the combination of All-American forward Trayce Jackson-Davis and freshman sensation Jalen Hood-Schifino.
When the two teams first met on Jan. 31, Maryland defeated the Hoosiers, 66-55. In that game, Jackson-Davis tallied 18 points and 20 rebounds, but Hood-Schifino had one of his worst showings of the season. He had just three points on 1-of-14 shooting.
Both of those players refused to be held down Friday. Jackson-Davis put up another strong showing with 24 points and nine rebounds, but the real difference was Hood-Schifino, who had 19 points including a clutch three with the shot clock winding down late.
“The three he made at the end of the shot clock, he’s a pro. That’s what pros do. Pros make big-time shots,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said. “But I thought transition was the biggest difference.”
On the other hand, four Maryland players scored in double figures but none jumped off the page. Don Carey had 11 — his shooting has been much improved of late — Hakim Hart had 16 and Donta Scott had 10, although he missed his last six shots. The other double-digit Maryland scorer was Jahmir Young, who had 12 points.
At face value, Young’s 27 points in two games looks solid. But he shot a combined 5-for-28 in his two games in Chicago — enough to beat Minnesota, but not a team of Indiana’s caliber. He was faced with the daunting task of being matched up with 6-foot-6 Hood-Schifino and couldn’t assert himself.
“For Jahmir, I thought Race [Thompson] did a heck of a job on switches,” Willard said. “I thought they did a really good job of just being physical with us. You know, having to play a tough game last night, I thought Jahmir was — he did the best he can against their size.”
Young was a borderline first-team all-conference selection, and even though he ended up on the second team, he is the most important piece of Maryland’s offense. When he struggles to get going, it’s easy for Maryland to go stagnant. If the Terps want to win a game in the NCAA Tournament, Young needs to step up.
Foul trouble changed the game.
A theme all season, Maryland forward Julian Reese found himself in foul trouble once again Friday. But he wasn’t the only one this time. Patrick Emilien, Reese’s usual replacement, fouled out.
It was a similar scene the night before, when Maryland found itself with multiple players in serious foul trouble. As was the case with Young’s play, Maryland can’t afford to be without Reese for long amounts of time. And if he’s on the court, he can’t afford to be tentative when facing the likes of Jackson-Davis, who is a master at taking advantage of such situations.
A total of 32 fouls were called during Friday’s game — 16 on each team. The officials made their presence felt, for better or worse, and had a part in keeping some of either team’s best players off the court. Race Thompson and Trey Galloway both had four fouls for Indiana.
Maryland’s NCAA Tournament resume is final.
Maryland won’t have to sweat when the NCAA Tournament bracket is released on Sunday, but it can no longer improve its at-large resume. Essentially, the Terps did what was expected of them in the Big Ten Tournament — beat a lower-seeded team and lose to a higher-seeded one. That will in all likelihood end up with Maryland right about where it started the postseason.
Entering Friday, Maryland was projected by almost every major outlet as an eight seed in the NCAA Tournament. That would set up a matchup with a nine seed, likely a team that matches up well with the Terps, but also a potential second-round showdown with a No. 1 seed.
Statistically speaking, games between eight and nine seeds are a virtual toss-up, but eight seeds advance past the second round nearly twice as often as nines — it’s still uncommon, though. Whether the Terps stay on the eight line or drop to the nine could have as much to do with what they’ve done as what other teams in a similar realm accomplish this weekend.
Considering preseason expectations making the NCAA Tournament on its own can be considered a victory, but Maryland will have to have success there to leave a good taste in its fans’ mouths. Regardless, Willard is keeping a positive outlook.
“I love my team. I don’t know what I have to refocus,” he said. “We’ve won 21 games. ... Come Selection Sunday, we’re going to celebrate the fact that — again, we lost at Ohio State, who is in the semifinals and just won 6 out of 7, and we lost on a buzzer-beater at Penn State, which has now won 7 of 8. I’m not refocusing anything. I’m going to celebrate, and we’re going to have a big party on Sunday.”