Maryland men’s basketball suffered its first loss of the season Wednesday night, falling by five to No. 4 Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. It was a night where experience won out, as Tony Bennett’s squad of veterans held off Mark Turgeon’s surging young guns in the final minutes in front of a sellout crowd.
The Cavaliers finished with just two turnovers, both on offensive fouls, and hit 8 of 16 attempts from beyond the arc. Maryland fell behind the Cavaliers’ hot shooting, which is typically a fatal sin against Virginia.
“I mean, you can tell [the difference in experience],” freshman guard Eric Ayala said after the game. “Their pace was their pace; they don’t let anyone speed them up. It’s a learning curved for our freshmen. ... Every game we’re probably going to be the youngest team out there so we we have to go out there and play to the best of our abilities.“
After Maryland took a 15-12 lead, Virginia went on a 13-2 run and never looked back. The Cavaliers led by nine at the half and pushed it as high as 17 in the opening minutes of the second half, taking advantage of a Maryland team that was just 1-of-6 from beyond the arc in the opening period. The Terps were on the verge of having the game snowball, before a couple freshmen found their feet, Aaron Wiggins and Ayala nailed back-to-back-threes to get Maryland back in the game and spur the comeback try.
The Terps fell short, but never quit. Even as the game proved out of reach, Maryland hit three triples in the game’s final minute to cut the lead to five, then four twice. Those three makes pushed the Terps to a deceivingly respectable 7-of-17 from distance for the game.
“We got better during the game tonight, got used to the crowd,” Turgeon said. “We’re playing five young guys out of our top eight, we’re going to have some growing pains. But I’ve told the team I’ve loved coaching them from day one ... they give me everything they have.”
It’s a game last year’s team probably lets spiral out of control, but it’s a promising sign that this squad continued to battle back. Maryland returns to the Xfinity Center for an early open to Big Ten play on Saturday against Penn State. Now, the Terps have a better idea of what type of team they are.
“We learned a lot,” sophomore center Bruno Fernando said. “We learned a lot about ourselves and the things we have to keep working on and improving on moving forward. Obviously, we have a big game Saturday and we’re just going to try to use these days to get better and work on those things we didn’t do well tonight.”
In other news
Football winds up with 12 total Big Ten honorees, as four Terps earned conference honors on the offensive side. Freshman Anthony McFarland was named to the second team, becoming the first Maryland freshman named to either the all-conference first or second team since Darrius Heyward-Bey in 2006.
There are some developments in the coaching search, as The Washington Post reported that interim coach Matt Canada interviewed for the job Tuesday in Atlanta. Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley is also expected to interview for the position after the SEC Championship game Saturday. (We’ll have more on the coaching search here soon.)
Men’s soccer is preparing for the Elite Eight, and Sasho Cirovski’s squad has used defense to power this tournament run, from The Baltimore Sun.
Women’s basketball takes it shot at the ACC/Big Ten Challenge tomorrow night, also at Xfinity. The Terps welcome Georgia Tech for the challenge and tickets for the game are just $1.