Maryland basketball fell from the ranks of college basketball’s unbeatens Wednesday, falling 76-71 to No. 4 Virginia in College Park.
The defending ACC champions led No. 24 Maryland nearly the whole evening, with the margin as high as 17 early in the second half. But the Terps made the game exciting, clawing all the way back within four in the final minutes before ultimately failing to complete the comeback.
Kyle Guy scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half to lead the way for Virginia, while Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter chipped in 15 and 13, respectively. Maryland center Bruno Fernando posted a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds and shot 6-of-8 from the floor. Anthony Cowan Jr. played poorly most of the night, but rallied to finish with a team-high 15 points. Freshmen Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala each scored 13 for Maryland.
Maryland shot 54 percent from the floor to Virginia’s 48 percent, and the Terps won the rebounding battle 34-23. But the Cavaliers went 10-for-22 from three and turned the ball over just twice, while holding Maryland to 7-of-17 shooting from deep (1-of-6 in the first half and 4-of-12 entering the final minutes) and forcing 14 turnovers. Virginia also led 12-8 in second-chance points.
The first half was back-and-forth early before Virginia gained some separation late. Maryland led briefly, as a 6-0 run gave the Terps a 15-12 lead, but Virginia responded with a 13-2 burst to pull ahead 25-17. The Cavaliers would extend the lead to nine at multiple points and go into halftime leading 39-30.
Virginia’s three-point shooting and turnover avoidance were the key differences in the first half. The Cavaliers went 8-of-16 from long range, with Guy going 4-of-7 himself; Maryland got an early triple from Eric Ayala but Virginia also committed just one turnover while forcing seven from the Terps and converting those into nine points.
Coming out of the break, Virginia started the second half on a 9-1 run, extending the lead to 48-31. Mark Turgeon called timeout, and back-to-back threes from Aaron Wiggins and Ayala woke the building back up, but it would take until the 11-minute mark for Maryland to trim the lead to single digits again.
The arena erupted again with 4:54 to play, as Fernando threw down a dunk to make it 61-55. Maryland then cut the lead to four twice, but Jerome’s three at the 2:50 mark pushed it back to seven. A Hunter dunk made it 70-62 entering the final minute, but Cowan drained a three to bring it back to five. It’d get back to 72-68 on a Wiggins three, but Virginia made enough free throws down the stretch to keep things just out of reach.
Maryland returns to action Saturday at 5 p.m. ET against Penn State for the first of two December Big Ten games.
Three things to know
1. The Terps hung around, but Virginia had just enough. The Cavaliers are the No. 4 team in the country for a reason. Their three top scorers all made plays, and the whole lineup was a pest on defense. But when Maryland fell behind, it didn’t fold. The Terps cut a 17-point deficit as low as four, which was a long and arduous process (just like anything involving playing Virginia). Maryland shot as well late as it had all night, but Virginia’s lead was a little too much to overcome.
2. Bruno Fernando can ball against anyone. The sophomore center has been dominant all year, albeit mainly against lesser competition. Virginia’s pack-line defense is as tough to crack as any in the country, but Fernando was still effective, posting a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double. His 6-of-8 showing actually lowered his shooting percentage for the season.
3. Now it’s time for ... conference play? For the second straight year, Big Ten teams will play two conference games in December (this time, it’s because the league expanded its schedule to 20 games). After hosting Penn State on Saturday, Maryland will visit Purdue on Dec. 6 before resuming non-conference play next weekend. It’s not ideal to enter that two-game slate coming off a loss, but Maryland still showed some encouraging signs in defeat.