After junior guard Eric Ayala missed a layup with a little under 13 minutes left against No. 2 seed Alabama, he turned around to hustle up the floor.
As he lagged behind the rest of his team around midcourt, Ayala could only watch as Alabama’s John Petty Jr. accepted a pass in the corner and put up a three. The Terp started walking back on defense before the shot even reached the rim.
No. 10 seed Maryland men’s basketball fought on both ends of the floor, but fell to Alabama, 96-77, with the Crimson Tide hitting just about anything they wanted from three-point range in the second round NCAA Tournament matchup.
“They shot the heck out of it,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “They hadn’t been shooting that well lately, but they shot it well today. And we’re a good defensive team, but we were just a step slow all night. We never could get caught up with their offense.”
Alabama shot 35-of-66 (48.5%) from the floor, including 16-of-33 from three, making it tough for the Terps to keep pace with one of the most prolific offenses in the nation. The 16 triples are the most Maryland has allowed in a game all season.
The defeat ends Maryland’s 2020-21 campaign with a 17-14 record. The Terps were one of the last two Big Ten teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament after a disappointing showing from the conference.
Maryland was able to kick off the game with its patented strong defense garnering two stops of the Crimson Tide offense, followed by a strong layup from senior forward Darryl Morsell.
With 15:38 left in the first half, junior forward Aaron Wiggins caught a pass open on the wing, but faked his shot and drove in for a monster slam. The Terps opened the game with an 11-5 advantage thanks to Alabama struggling on the offensive end and not having a big man in the starting lineup.
But things got ugly quick, as head coach Mark Turgeon subbed Galin Smith, Jairus Hamilton and Reese Mona into the game and the Crimson Tide hit the Terps with a 20-8 run.
“It was kind of weird that we made the run without [Herbert Jones] because he’s an integral part of what we do,” head coach Nate Oats said. “But I thought guys stepped up. [Joshua] Primo was good and [Jahvon] Quinerly was good and Keon Ellis was good. We were able to do it without Herb in the game a lot.”
Alabama had managed to blow by Maryland thanks to a 5-of-7 clip from three, taking a 27-22 lead with 8:30 left in the first half. The Crimson Tide, who entered the contest leading the nation with 325 made threes, had caught fire.
Maryland fell victim to Alabama’s pace down the stretch for the first half as the teams traded 10 three point shots back and forth across 2:27. Despite the Terps out-shooting the Tide during that stretch, an Alex Reese three on a kick-out pass bumped the deficit to 11 points with 2:46 remaining to force a timeout from Turgeon.
Wiggins hit a pretty behind the back dribble and spin move to lay-in two points for the Terps heading into the half, but the damage had already been done.
The Terps trailed 46-38 through 20 minutes, with the 46 Alabama points tying the most that Maryland had given up in a first half all season. It wasn’t the fault of the Maryland defense, however, with Alabama shooting 17-of-33 (51.5%) from the field and 8-of-17 (47.1%) from long range.
“Definitely something we hadn’t seen before,” Morsell said of the Alabama onslaught. “It’s the first team to score 90 on us. They came in locked in and had a great game plan. They have great spacing on their drives and they looked to attack mismatches. They found a rhythm.”
Morsell had a layup stuffed at the rim just 3:15 into the second half and the Tide started to run from there. John Petty Jr. sunk a three on the other end and grabbed the board after a block on Hamilton’s shot attempt. Coming up the floor once again, Petty dumped to a teammate, stood in the corner and hit another three to give Alabama a 59-42 lead and stun the Terps.
Maryland had built its identity this season on forcing teams to let the ball fly from long range and not allow easy paint buckets, but the Tide simply continued to feed, even from over 25 feet out. Alabama ultimately used a 14-0 run over the span of 1:57 to take a 65-42 lead and put the game out of reach.
“It was surreal to be honest,” Alabama’s Jaden Shackleford said of the run. “We dreamt to be on this stage early in the year, so to see the work on display, really our bench is great. Our fans are great. Much love to them for all the support they bring to us. Just all that fed into that electricity on the court for us. It was big. Probably helped us make those shots.”
Even with the Terps slowing down the pace of the game and outscoring the Crimson Tide 13-11 across nearly seven minutes, the energy in the building only continued to buzz around Alabama shooting threes.
Morsell worked on the defensive end to slow down the Alabama offense, and the Tide took a breather. Quinerly held back with the ball for a few seconds before using a screen to get to the basket. Despite missing the layup, Reese was there to just tip the ball into the air as he glided across the front of the basket and even that rattled home to keep the lead at 21 points with 5:55 remaining.
Quinerly nailed his second three of the night with 3:36 remaining to stamp his double-double, doing so with 14 points and 11 assists, but got hit with a technical foul for saying a “Boom” in the ear of Donta Scott heading up the floor.
A timeout with 1:08 remaining allowed Turgeon to swap in a new lineup, giving Morsell and Wiggins a teary-eyed walk off the court.
“What I told him is don’t let this night ruin what we’ve accomplished,” Turgeon said. “[Players and coaches] know how hard it is to win, so we ran into a hot team that played extraordinarily well.”
Three things to know
1. Aaron Wiggins continued to show out on the big stage. The junior was the heart of the Terps’ attack early on, finishing the first half with a game-high 13 points, including a 3-of-5 clip from three. He doubled down on that effort in the second half, finishing the night with 27 points and six rebounds. Wiggins was a key part of the offense down the stretch of the regular season, but continued his strong play when the team needed it most in the postseason. He finished with 77 points in four tournament games, eclipsing Eric Ayala who finished with 76 points this postseason.
2. The Crimson Tide owned the boards. With both team’s playing small ball lineups, it seemed as though Maryland might have a fair chance at the rebounding battle. However, the Terps were dominated on the boards. Alabama outrebounded Maryland, 40-19, on the evening, including a sizable 15-4 advantage on the offensive boards.
3. Maryland struggled to get to the line. The Terps only had seven trips to the charity stripe on Monday night, which is not a recipe for success. And even when the team managed to get to the line, it couldn’t take advantage, converting on just three of those seven attempts. Maryland is now 0-6 on the season when taking less than 10 attempts at the free-throw line.