Tuesday night’s game between Maryland men’s basketball and Rutgers couldn’t have come to a more fitting end. Down three with 13.9 seconds on the clock, the Terps held possession with a chance to tie. They got the ball in star guard Jahmir Young’s hands, but he was double-teamed and forced to dish it backward to forward Donta Scott.
With precious seconds ticking away, Scott rose up for a desperation heave, which was off the mark, sealing Maryland’s 56-53 home defeat at the hands of the Scarlet Knights (12-10, 4-7 Big Ten).
Scott’s miss put the finishing touches on a brutal offensive showcase. As a team, Maryland (13-10, 5-7) shot just 31% from the field — going just 2-for-18 from three — and turned the ball over 15 times in its sloppiest home performance of the year.
“I’m a little perplexed ... We were so lackadaisical on the offensive end,” Terps head coach Kevin Willard said. “They’re really playing hard on the defensive end. We’re just — I think we’re almost a little too casual on the offensive end.”
Forward Julian Reese was Maryland’s primary bright spot with 19 points and 12 rebounds, yet his six missed free throws loomed large in the narrow result. Young was markedly inefficient, going 3-for-17 from the field. He reached the 1,000-point threshold for his Maryland career early in the second half, but was overshadowed by his team’s nightmarish offensive output.
“It really cancels out with the [loss],” Young said of his accomplishment. “I’m not really worried about it. Just trying to figure out how we can win some games.”
Big Ten basketball has a reputation for old-school, grind-out-your-opponent play, and Tuesday’s game was a primary example why. It wasn’t just Maryland that had a lid on the rim — Rutgers also struggled to achieve the basic task of putting the ball through the hoop.
The low-scoring affair didn’t come as a surprise given the two teams’ remarkably similar styles of play. The Terps boast the top scoring defense in the Big Ten, while the Scarlet Knights rank third. The squads are also the only two in the league averaging under 70 points per game.
A rock fight was the expectation, and what unfolded on the court was nothing short of one. Neither team found success scoring the ball, with a combined 30 turnovers, five made threes (on 31 attempts) and a 35.5% field-goal percentage.
Maryland didn’t cross the 10-point threshold until over 12 minutes had elapsed, at one point in the first half missing seven straight field goals.
More often than not, possessions fizzled out before any positive action. For Rutgers in particular, errant passes sailed past their intended targets either into the hands of defenders or out of bounds. When Maryland had the ball, shots rattled the rim without touching nylon.
“To be honest with you, yeah, there was a lack of urgency all around, on the bench and from the start,” Young said. “That’s unacceptable with where we’re at in the season and what we have to do, so this is a tough one.”
The second half was where Rutgers began to build an advantage. Maryland didn’t score a basket for a near-seven-minute stretch in the latter portion of the second half, and the Scarlet Knights extended their lead to nine. That deficit with over three minutes left usually wouldn’t feel like a lost cause, but for Maryland, specifically the Maryland that took the court Tuesday, it looked like too much to handle.
However, the Terps regained life when Rutgers’ Derek Simpson was assessed a technical foul with 2:54 remaining. Young stepped to the line and calmly knocked down a pair of free throws, which were followed by a Reese layup. After recording a steal, Scott earned a trip to the free-throw line and converted on his two attempts.
Trailing by three, the Terps had a chance to rip victory from the hands of ugly defeat. When Reese swatted a shot on the other end, that possibility grew. But Maryland threw its chance away.
DeShawn Harris-Smith received the ball wide-open in the corner, but the unreliable outside shooter passed on the opportunity and kicked it up top to fellow freshman Jamie Kaiser Jr. Looking to get the ball in the hands of Young, Kaiser whipped a pass across the court, but it ultimately slipped past its intended target and out of bounds — emblematic of Maryland’s inability to capitalize when it mattered most.
“We’ve got the sixth-best defense in the country and after tonight, who knows where we rank offensively,” Willard said. “It’s frustrating, to be honest with you.”
Three things to know
1. Reese stood out. Reese was Maryland’s only player to have a particularly impressive performance Tuesday, recording his fourth straight home game with a double-double. However, his missed free throws proved costly.
2. Another close game, another loss. Maryland moved to 1-6 in one-possession games this season. When the chips are down, the Terps have struggled to take control of close games and have lacked the needed final effort.
3. A knock to the resume. Maryland is running out of time to gather wins and realize its growingly far-fetched attempt to make the NCAA Tournament. Tuesday’s game was a prime opportunity to bounce back after a tough loss at Michigan State, but the Terps couldn’t come through.