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Maryland men’s basketball comes up short at Syracuse in 72-70 loss

A pair of last-minute turnovers proved too much to overcome.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland men’s basketball played a back-and-forth game in the opening of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, eventually falling on the road to Syracuse, 72-70.

This was a two-point game until two Maryland turnovers allowed the Orange to push the lead to four at the line. In front of a couple hundred of his family and friends, Clifton Park, New York, native Kevin Huerter stepped up and nailed his seventh three-pointer of the night to make it a one-point game, but a miscue on the ensuing inbound allowed Syracuse to walk away with a win.

Huerter was unconscious from beyond and finished with a season-high 23 points, going 7-of-9 from three, to lead the Terps’ scoring effort in the Carrier Dome.

Freshman forward Bruno Fernando led Maryland’s attack from inside, finishing with 13 points, though foul trouble limited his impact. Justin Jackson continued to find his range, hitting a three pointer in each half, while Anthony Cowan added 11 points of his own.

Maryland has struggled with turnovers recently, especially against the zone. Syracuse almost exclusively plays a 2-3 zone defense that forces its fair share of miscues. While the Terps found a rhythm at times, turnovers still plagued the Terps, and they finished the game with 18 turnovers. The zone caused Maryland trouble inside, but the Terps had success from beyond the arc, going 11-of-23 from three-point range.

Tyus Battle wasn’t able to get hot, but finished the game with 18 points, including a clutch three. Instead, it was Frank Martin and Oshae Brissett that held the scoring mantle for the Orange. Each added 15 points, while Brissett had a double-double with 12 rebounds and Martin was Syracuse’s best distributor and added nine assists.

Freshman Darryl Morsell, who injured his hamstring against Jackson State, was instrumental in the Terps’ zone offense, and provided a physical presence to create plays from the middle of the floor. He finished the game with nine points, but his best contribution was as a playmaker, leading Maryland with five assists.

Syracuse was able to keep Maryland on the defensive in the first half, and killed the Terps off the dribble early. After going back and forth for the first eight minutes, a three-pointer put the Orange up 19-16 at the under-12 break. Out of the timeout, a furious alley-oop finish by freshman forward Bruno Fernando gave Maryland some energy. Fernando would finish the half with eight points, but was one of three Terps to pick up two fouls in the half and had to sit for the last four minutes.

Maryland’s turnover problems returned after long, and Syracuse extended the lead to 32-25, before Huerter hit a deep triple. Maryland erased the lead in transition with a 8-0 run, when Anthony Cowan took it in for a layup on the break, then found Huerter in the right corner for his third three pointer of the half to give the Terps a lead. Huerter finished the half as Maryland’s leading scorer with nine points, shooting 3-of-4 beyond the arc.

Maryland would end the half down, 36-35, after trading baskets for the last minute before Cowan turned the ball over on the half’s final possession. It was one of 11 first half turnovers for the Terps. This was also one of the few games this season where an opponent was tougher than the Terps inside. Syracuse out-rebounded Maryland, 21-15, through 20 minutes and outscored the Terps in the paint, 26-12. Maryland finished with a 39-33 rebounding disparity and were outscored 42-20 in the paint.

The second half was equally back-and-forth, although Maryland had a couple lightbulb moments against the zone. When Maryland was able to get to the middle of the paint, opportunities opened up, especially for Fernando on the baseline. He started the second half and added four quick points to retake the lead for the Terps. But he couldn’t stay out of foul trouble, picking up his third with 14 minutes left and his fourth with over six to play.

It was a tightly contested game until the final whistle, with neither team able to pull too far ahead. Syracuse took a 63-61 lead with a little over four minutes left, and would hold onto it until Huerter stepped into his sixth three-pointer of the night to give Maryland a 66-65 lead with a minute and a half left.

Battle responded with a three of his own to give the Orange a two-point lead with under a minute to go, and turnovers by Cowan and Huerter allowed Syracuse to extend the lead to 70-66. Huerter’s three gave the Terps live at 13 seconds, but it was immediately followed with the bucket to put it out of reach for the Terps.

Maryland is back in action when Purdue comes to the Xfinity Center on Dec. 1 for an early season Big Ten test.

Three things to know

1. Kevin Huerter put on a show. With Huerter just a couple hours from his hometown, this always had the potential to be a big game for him. He was beyond confident shooting the ball, and cashed out from a couple feet beyond the arc more than once. His three-point shooting helped open up the zone for Maryland.

2. Maryland’s influx of toughness was huge. Mark Turgeon has long praised the toughness of newcomers Sean Obi, Fernando and Morsell, and it was necessary for the Terps tonight. All three would come in at different points and helped disrupt the middle of the Orange zone. Fernando and Morsel combined for 22 points, while Obi played just five minutes but was a force when he was on the court.

3. Maryland kind of figured out the zone. All but one of Maryland’s 23 field goals were assisted on, with six players picking up multiple assists and three finishing with at least four. The Terps seemed to have an attack figured out, but 18 turnovers is still too many, and the late giveaways squandered Maryland’s chance.