Maryland men’s basketball left Iowa on Wednesday with a narrow 69-67 victory, the Terps’ second Big Ten win away from home this season and their first win in Iowa City since 2019.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Young’s all-star campaign continued
Jahmir Young is quickly putting together one of the most impressive seasons in the recent history of Maryland basketball. Further proving his prowess, he took over in the waning moments of Wednesday’s game to lift his team to a crucial victory.
Young has taken over games with frequency this year, but the exclamation point on his signature performances have sometimes been absent. On multiple occasions, he’s put the team on his back, but the team just missed coming away with a heroic victory.
That changed when he followed back-to-back threes with a game-winning layup with less than two seconds remaining. In a game during which he struggled for a while, Young ended up with 22 points, including the Terps’ last eight. His name will be the first that Maryland fans remember when they think back not only on Wednesday’s game, but also this season in its totality.
In his last eight games, Young is averaging 25 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per contest. There are some who can argue they’ve made similar impacts, but no guard in college basketball is playing above Young’s level of late. 11 Maryland men’s basketball players have been named All-Americans at the conclusion of a season, and Young is certainly making a strong case to become No. 12.
Young is on pace to have the most productive season by a Maryland guard since Greivis Vasquez in 2009-10. Vasquez’s name and number now hang in the rafters above Maryland’s home court, and Young is putting himself in that rarified air with every passing game.
Maryland’s defense led the way
Young will rightfully so get the headlines, but what decided Wednesday night’s game was Maryland’s defense.
The Terps struggled on the offensive end, but were able to keep themselves in the game by playing solid defense. They were the beneficiaries of some more-errant-than-usual Iowa shooting, but for the most part locked up the Hawkeyes, who boast the highest scoring offense in the Big Ten by a decent margin.
For an eight-and-a-half minute stretch during the beginning and middle portions of the second half, Iowa missed 13 of its 16 field goal attempts. It also didn’t make a shot in the final 5:44 of the game, allowing Young and Maryland to take charge.
With a few exceptions, Maryland has managed to avoid being blown out by negating its offensive struggles with great defense. It isn’t intentionally built to play that way, but head coach Kevin Willard himself has even admitted that his team might not have another choice.
Regardless of its still-present ineptitudes scoring the ball, Maryland has developed a blueprint for victory: grind out its opponents and stay opportunistic enough for players like Young, Julian Reese and Donta Scott to chip in enough and come out on top.
A stepping stone in an important stretch
If Maryland could go back and redo its season to this point, it would. But unless Willard secretly owns a time machine, all he and his team can control is what they do from here on out.
Virtually every game Maryland plays from now until the end of the season will fall under the must-win category. It’s built itself little room for error, which makes every passing game a chance to either greatly damage hope at a late-season run or signify the potential beginning of a turnaround.
Wednesday’s win was gritty, not only because it came in a sloppy game on the road, but also because it comes at a do-or-die moment of the season. There’s still time for Maryland to turn things around, but if it enters mid-to-late February still searching for answers, there won’t be. After Saturday’s matchup with Nebraska, the Terps have a week off before playing their 10 final regular season games. They’ll need to impress now to not only keep their record afloat, but also build momentum heading into the home stretch.
One of the best parts of college basketball is that nearly every team has a chance to make the NCAA Tournament when conference championships comes around, no matter how they performed in the regular season. However, being reduced to needing a dose of March magic is a stressful and usually futile fate — one that Maryland almost needs to win out to avoid.
Wednesday was step one on a very, very steep staircase to getting back in the conversation. If one or two bounces didn’t go Maryland’s way, it could’ve been another detrimental loss. But wins are wins, and good teams find ways to get them.
What the Terps do over these next few weeks will be the determinant as to whether the result will ultimately matter.