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Takeaways from Maryland basketball’s narrow loss to Virginia

The Terps gave the No. 4 Cavaliers a run, but a few things held them back.

Maryland basketball Eric Ayala vs. Virginia Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

In its first test of the season, Maryland came up short, falling to No. 4 Virginia 76-71 Wednesday night. The Terps tried to claw their way back from an early 17-point second half deficit, but didn’t make enough plays to come all the way back.

Maryland shot 54 percent of the field against the Cavaliers’ pack-line defense and controlled the glass, out-rebounding Virginia 35-24. Bruno Fernando had another strong night with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Anthony Cowan Jr. played well down the stretch to finish with a team-high 15 points. But the Terps struggled with the little things, and a 14-2 turnover margin and an inability to get stops at crucial moments proved costly.

Here are some other things that stood out.

Virginia’s experience won out, but Maryland left some points on the foul line.

The Terps are going to be the younger team in nearly every game this year, but that difference was more pronounced Wednesday. While Maryland plays three freshman routinely—and a fourth in Serrel Smith Jr. is working his way into steady minutes—six of the Cavaliers’ top seven players have all been in Charlottesville for a minimum of three seasons. That showed in the first half, as Virginia ran its sets and always seemed to set one last screen to free up an open three-point shooter.

The Terps held their own on offense for most of the night, working well out of the high post in the first half and attacking the basket as the second half wore on. Maryland got into the bonus with 10:14 left, but didn’t fully take advantage and hit just 10 of 16 free throws for the game. Scoring points in any fashion is key, especially against Virginia, and who knows how the game would’ve turned out if the Terps had taken full advantage of their opportunities at the charity stripe.

Maryland’s shooting needed to show up earlier.

Of Virginia’s eight first-half threes, six came after Maryland scored on the previous possession. That allowed the Cavaliers to slowly extend the lead through the first half, and a cushion to build on as Maryland started flat in the second half. The Terps’ only first-half three came from Eric Ayala just over three minutes in, and 20 minutes of game time elapsed before Aaron Wiggins hit Maryland’s next triple. By that time, Virginia’s lead had grown to 17 points.

Maryland finished the game 7-of-17 from beyond the arc, but that final line is misleading. Three of those shots came in the final 54 seconds, when the Terps were in desperation mode. Ayala and Wiggins have been solid three-point shooters so far this year, and Cowan has gotten off to a slow start but was decent last year. As Maryland showed against Marshall, getting its shooters going early makes the Terps a much harder team to defend.

This team has a high ceiling.

Turgeon said on Tuesday that this game would be a good marker for his team, and it was encouraging to see Maryland give Virginia everything it had.

The Terps shot 54 percent against one of the toughest defenses in this country, becoming just the fourth team in the past two seasons to do that against the Cavaliers. They also continued to chip away at Virginia’s lead after it ballooned early in the second half, which is a good sign for a team still learning how to play together.

Eventually, the mistakes made throughout the game added up, as they usually do when playing a team as experienced and in sync with its system as Virginia. Still, being able to compete with one of the best in the country is an encouraging sign for things to come.

“Man, we’re going to be one hell of a team,” Ayala said after the game. “We’re young and for us to go out there and play like we did and fight back, it shows a lot of character.”