After leading by 17 at the break, No. 7 Michigan came out in the second half looking to deliver the knockout blow to Maryland men’s basketball.
Wolverines guard Franz Wagner penetrated from the top of the key, prompting the Maryland defense to collapse on him. In doing so, guard Eli Brooks was left wide open in the corner for his first three-pointer of the night, giving Michigan its largest lead up until that point.
The Terps never managed to make any sort of comeback attempt, eventually suffering a 87-63 defeat to the Wolverines on the road.
“I thought we were a half step slow tonight,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “They’re really hard to guard. Low post, if you don’t double they score on you, and if you do double them, they can shoot threes. They shot the ball terrific tonight and moved the ball great.”
This year’s Maryland team has been no stranger to pulling off road upsets since Big Ten play began, having defeated both Wisconsin (then No. 6) and Illinois (then No. 12) away from home this season. The Terps brought those same aspirations into Tuesday’s contest, despite being blown out by the Wolverines at Xfinity less than a month ago.
Priority No. 1 for Maryland at the start of the game was containing Michigan freshman center Hunter Dickinson. The 7-foot-2 Virginia-native put on a clinic the last time these two teams played, dropping 26 points on 10-of-11 shooting in the victory.
The Terps were hyper-aware whenever Dickinson got himself in position to score, swarming him on every post touch to try to force someone else to beat them. Wolverine guard Mike Smith ended up being the primary beneficiary of the extra attention on Dickinson, drifting into open pockets of space behind the arc and consistently making Maryland pay.
Smith knocked down each of his first three triples to give him nine quick points, with senior forward Isaiah Livers eventually chipping in as well. Livers buried a pair of three-pointers himself, including one that gave his team a 17-3 lead and forced a Maryland timeout with 14:16 remaining.
The Wolverines were lights out from the perimeter in the first half, which was a stark departure from how they attacked Maryland in their win on Dec. 31. Michigan scored 42 of its 84 points in the paint the last time these teams met, attacking the Terps at the rim without much resistance. Michigan struggled to find its touch from beyond the arc though, shooting just 6-of-19 (31.1 percent) that evening.
Tuesday night was a different story, however, with the likes of White, Livers and Chaundee Brown Jr. each leading a blistering three-point shooting effort. The Wolverines shot 8-of-14 from three-point range in the first half, compared to just 2-of-10 for the Terps.
“It’s really hard,” senior guard Darryl Morsell said of guarding Michigan’s shooters. “Credit to Michigan, they surrounded a pretty good post guy with three shooters, and tonight they found their rhythm early.”
Forced to play from behind early, Maryland’s offensive execution needed to be sharp against a defensively stout team in Michigan. But the Terps set themselves back time and time again by turning the ball over.
Five turnovers in the first 10 minutes and a 2-for-10 shooting start from the field allowed Michigan to maintain a double-digit advantage through the better part of the first half. The Wolverines managed to capitalize on several of Maryland six first half turnovers, leading to 11 points in the first 20 minutes of play.
As Maryland began to take better care of the ball, though, the deficit began to shrink. A patient drive and finish in the lane from Ayala gave him his first field goal of the night and trimmed the lead to 12. Two possessions later, Hakim Hart got Michigan forward Austin Davis switched onto him, allowing for the sophomore take advantage by crossing his defender over and connecting on a step-back three-pointer to cut the lead to 28-19 with 5:35 left.
But each time the Terps took a step forward, it was followed by two steps back. The Wolverines had answer at every turn, as each team traded buckets down the stretch of the first half. Michigan ended the period on an 8-2 run for a 42-25 cushion at the break.
Michigan steadily grew its lead as the second half progressed, doing so from both the three-point and free-throw lines. Livers added two more triples, while the Wolverines went a near perfect 5-of-6 from the charity stripe to effortlessly maintain a 20+ point advantage with over 12 minutes remaining.
“In the second half I feel like we could have fought more and gave a little more effort, regardless of the score,” Morsell said. “I was probably more disappointed in us in how we started the second half than how we started the game.”
Morsell continued to try to provide a spark offensively as the Terps stagnated, embracing contact at the rim despite still donning the face mask from the injury he suffered in Maryland’s previous game against Michigan. With 10:04 remaining in the second half, he shook his defender and dove toward the rim and finished through contact, drawing the whistle from the official for the and-one.
Less than a minute later, though, Brown sank another three-pointer, Michigan’s 12th of the night to push the lead to a seemingly insurmountable 70-47.
Michigan never took its foot off the gas and Maryland never had an answer, allowing the Wolverines to sweep the season series.
“It was basically just us not capitalizing where they were capitalizing,” sophomore forward Donta Scott said. “And that’s what kind of messed us up.”
Three Things to Know
1. The Terps did a strong job defending Hunter Dickinson. It was clear that Maryland was not going to allow history to repeat itself in its rematch against the Wolverines, throwing everything it had at the talented freshman from the opening tip. Dickinson’s first field goal attempt didn’t come until the 3:53 mark of the first half, scoring a season-low 3 points on the evening after tearing the Terps apart their last time out.
Although Maryland was suspect in other areas defensively, it at least showed that it’s capable of slowing down a premier interior scorer.
2. Maryland struggled at the foul line. Free throws can serve as the great equalizer for teams that struggle to execute offensively, and Maryland would have to take advantage of its opportunities at the charity stripe if it wanted to pull off another upset. The Terps did a strong job of getting to the line on Tuesday, but couldn’t convert consistently, shooting just 17-30 on the night.
“The free throw shooting didn’t really give us a chance,” Turgeon said. “Right before the half we missed a wide open three and two front-ends of one-and-ones. It should have been an eight, nine, 10 point game at halftime, and then it’s still doable.”
The Terps are now shooting 67.8 percent from the free throw line this season.
3. The Terps couldn’t keep up from beyond the arc. As the Wolverines put on their impressive display from behind the three-point line throughout Tuesday’s game, Maryland failed to match its opponents production from deep. The Terps went 4-of-22 (22.2 percent) from three-point range in this one, marking their second-worst three-point shooting performance of the season.