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Big Ten Tournament semifinals preview: Maryland men’s lacrosse vs. Johns Hopkins

The Terps look to even the season series in the rematch.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

No. 3-seed Maryland men’s lacrosse is headed to Baltimore on Thursday to take on No. 2-seed Johns Hopkins in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.

After a heartbreaking loss to the Blue Jays in the regular-season finale, the Terps dropped from first to third in the Big Ten standings, setting up a first-round matchup with No. 6-seed Rutgers.

Maryland took a 4-1 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, defeating the Scarlet Knights, 14-11, on Saturday.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 4-seed Michigan took down No. 5-seed Ohio State, 14-10, and will now play No. 1-seed Penn State.

Thursday’s game between Maryland and Johns Hopkins will begin at 3:30 p.m. and air on Big Ten Network.

What happened last time

It was less than two weeks ago when Maryland and Johns Hopkins last met. With bragging rights, the Big Ten regular-season title and a wooden crab trophy on the line, the 118th meeting between the two programs did not disappoint.

Senior attackman Daniel Maltz roped around the cage to score the first goal of the game, and then Johns Hopkins junior midfielder Brendan Grimes gathered a deflection off freshman goalie Brian Ruppel and canned his first opportunity.

The Terps scored two of the next three goals, and entered the second quarter with a one-goal advantage.

Johns Hopkins took the lead midway through the second quarter, but freshman attackman Braden Erksa scored back-to-back unassisted goals to regain the lead before halftime.

Johns Hopkins outscored the Terps by two in the third quarter, though, despite Erksa tallying his third and fourth goals of the game.

Maryland had an opportunity to tie the game and force an extra period late in the fourth quarter, but sophomore attackman Zach Whittier committed a crucial turnover on the final possession to secure the win, 12-11, for the Blue Jays.

“Watching the film, I felt like we had a lot of struggles,” head coach John Tillman said. “Offensively, we just never really got into a great flow. I thought we had some silly turnovers and some short possessions. Didn’t really handle the pressure particularly well.”

What’s happened since

Johns Hopkins’ win over Maryland granted it a first-round bye, while the Terps were forced to play in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals against Rutgers.

Impressive ball and player movement resulted in four first-quarter goals for Maryland, while junior midfielder Jack Aimone was the only Scarlet Knight to find the back of the net.

Rutgers scored four goals in the second quarter, but each were immediately answered by the Terps, who held a 8-5 advantage heading into halftime. Graduate defenseman Brett Makar scored the second goal of his career and final of the half, which resulted in Maryland’s bench storming the field and subsequently receiving an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

The Terps continued to control the game in the third quarter, as Maltz and junior attackman Owen Murphy scored the only two goals, but Rutgers entered the fourth quarter rejuvenated.

The Scarlet Knights rallied for six goals in the final period, including four straight to end the game. It was too little, too late for Rutgers, though, who’s Big Ten season came to an end.

Maryland’s three starting attackmen — Erksa, Maltz and junior attackman Daniel Kelly — were lights-out, combining for eight goals and eight assists.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland correct its fourth-quarter woes? Maryland has struggled severely in two of the last three fourth quarters — both coming against Rutgers. The Terps manhandled the Scarlet Knights through the first three quarters in each affair, but nearly fumbled their lead in the final period. In the regular season, Maryland held a six-goal advantage heading into the fourth quarter, but eight turnovers and just two shot attempts allowed Rutgers to cut the lead in half. On Saturday, the Terps entered the fourth quarter with a five-goal advantage and won eight of the 10 faceoffs, but Rutgers still dominated the final six minutes of play. If Maryland cannot clean up its late-game inefficiencies, the Terps’ Big Ten title hopes may end sooner than some expect.

2. Johns Hopkins holds two major advantages. While the Terps worked out some kinks from its regular-season finale loss, a five-day turnaround may prove to be problematic against a Johns Hopkins team fresh off a full week of rest. In addition, Homewood Field was selected as the host site for the Big Ten Tournament, meaning the Blue Jays hold home-field advantage throughout the entire tournament. Lopsided rest and a hostile environment may be all it takes to upend the Terps.

“I think you’d always rather be the team that has the bye,” Tillman said. “We’ve tried to balance getting the rest and recovery with the preparation. And, you know, it’s a fine line between getting enough [preparation] and over [preparing].”

3. How will Maryland respond to the regular-season finale loss? As Johns Hopkins hoisted the 25-pound wooden crab trophy — awarded to the annual winner of “The Rivalry” — every player on Maryland’s roster roamed the outskirts of SECU Stadium’s turf field, watching the Blue Jays celebrate. Each of Maryland’s four losses hurt, but none greater than this. After having the Big Ten regular-season title stripped from them, the Terps won’t have to wait until next year for a chance at payback.