LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The University of Maryland men’s basketball team, loaded with its best starting five since 2002, couldn’t duplicate the magical run of Juan Dixon and company. The Terps played a great half of basketball in their Sweet 16 matchup with No. 1 Kansas, but a 14-minute stretch in which they converted just two […]
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The University of Maryland men’s basketball team, loaded with its best starting five since 2002, couldn’t duplicate the magical run of Juan Dixon and company.
The Terps played a great half of basketball in their Sweet 16 matchup with No. 1 Kansas, but a 14-minute stretch in which they converted just two field goal attempts ultimately spelled doom for the fifth-seeded team in the East. The Jayhawks pulled away from there and went on to win, 79-63.
“(Kansas) was just great on defense,” said Maryland Head Coach Mark Turgeon. “We are a good offensive team and we are hard to guard, but they really locked in on us.”
In the first half, Maryland looked like it was ready for its first Sweet 16 game since the Dixon days. The Terps came out aggressive on both ends of the floor and even opened up a six-point lead midway through the half when Jake Layman soared down the lane for a one-handed throwdown. Kansas responded though and fought back to take a two-point lead heading into the break.
It was then more of the same to start the second half, as both teams came out on fire. The teams traded buckets for the first three minutes. However, that was when Kansas took off.
The Jayhawks made six straight shots from the time the half started until the under-16 timeout and opened their lead to seven. Wayne Selden Jr. ignited the run with seven points, while Kansas’ steady senior in Perry Ellis added four. The two went on to combine for 46 points, with Ellis tying a season-high with 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting.
“They just told me to be more aggressive,” Ellis said. “And that’s what I try to do.”
Meanwhile, it was around that time that Maryland embarked on an extremely ill-timed field goal drought. Between a Layman dunk at the 17:36 mark and a Jared Nickens’ three-pointer with 3:47 to go in the game, the Terps made just two field goals. One was a Melo Trimble three (14:29), while the other was a Robert Carter Jr. jumper (10:30). Besides those two shots, Maryland’s other seven points came from the free throw line.
Despite being in the midst of the scoring swoon, Maryland still had a chance to get back in the game. Down 60-53 around the 10-minute mark, the Terps had four straight possessions with a chance to cut into Kansas’ lead. Unfortunately, all four times the Terps came away without any points.
Trimble turned the ball over while driving into the paint and then missed a three-pointer on the next possession. Diamond Stone followed with a missed layup before Carter Jr. had a turnover of his own. Seldon Jr. got a steal and a layup to push the Kansas lead to nine and deflated any Maryland comeback hopes after that.
“I felt like two times I had wide open shots,” Trimble said. “If I made them we would have been right back in the game. I have been going through this all season – not making the shot I normally make.”
Kansas Head Coach Bill Self credited his team’s defense and rebounding in the second half as the main factor for his Jayhawks pulling away.
“I thought we played superb,” Self said. “I thought in the second half we defended and we rebounded.”
Maryland didn’t help its cause by once again being ice cold from three-point land. The Terps were just 5-of-25 from behind the arc. As was also the case in some of its losses during the season, Maryland was out-rebounded 43-28 and allowed Kansas to pull down 13 offensive rebounds.
Maryland ends its season with a 27-9 mark after being 15-1 on Jan. 9 and continues an underachieving trend since the program won the National Championship in 2002. Since then, the Terps have made the NCAA Tournament just seven times, going 9-7 with just two Sweet 16 appearances.
Still, there is no denying that the talent on this year’s team was the best the program has seen since then.
“My message to them after the game was I thanked them for the year,” Turgeon said. “They tried hard. Tonight I thought we were prepared. We played well early. The start of the second half went right for us. It didn’t go right after that.”