COLLEGE PARK – Maybe it was the tough loss against Penn State a few days before. Maybe it was the foul trouble, or Michigan’s defense, or the commanding play of Michigan freshman Ignas Brazdeikis, who pulled nine fouls before finishing the game without committing a single penalty.
Whatever the reason, the Maryland men’s basketball team did not perform at the high level that Terps fans are used to in its 69-62 loss against Michigan (26-4) at the Xfinity Center on March 3.
The Terps had not lost a game against a Big Ten team on their home court this season.
However, the Wolverines contained prolific scorer Anthony Cowan, Jr., and held him to just 10 points and one assist. Forward Bruno Fernando notched his 19th double-double, with 12 points and 10 rebounds, but admitted that he missed several shots that usually find their mark.
“I think I got the looks that I wanted; I just couldn’t make the hoop shots and the shots that I usually make,” said Fernando. “That was the whole difference. I tried to get the shots that I usually do and the shots that I work on every day, and they just weren’t falling for me tonight.”
Michigan had clearly done its homework on Fernando and double-teamed him under the basket. Wolverines’ center John Teske used his seven-foot frame to his advantage and didn’t allow Fernando any breathing room. Despite Teske’s smothering defense, however, Fernando burst loose on several occasions and electrified the sold-out home crowd with a pair of emphatic dunks.
The Terps jumped out to a fast start behind back-to-back treys by freshman Jalen Smith (11 points, five rebounds) and sophomore Darryl Morsell (10 points, four assists.) Then came the penalties. Maryland (21-9) was penalized four times less than four minutes into the game; most of the calls sent Brazdeikis to the free throw line.
Brazdeikis, perhaps spurred by an unsavory chant directed toward him by the Maryland faithful, seemed to relish his game-high 21 points as he showboated at the crowd by flexing and blowing kisses to the student section.
Meanwhile, their early foul trouble haunted the Terps for the rest of the game. Cowan and guard Aaron Wiggins nearly fouled out with four penalties apiece, while Morsell finished with three.
The Terps kept it close throughout most of the second half and even managed to take the lead behind big plays by Smith and Fernando with 11 minutes left to go. Fernando batted Michigan’s attempted shots out of the air, while Smith fought for points under the basket and then treated the fans to a dunk after a defensive rebound.
The Wolverines started to pull away after a pair of big buckets by Brazdeikis. The Michigan defense smothered Smith and Fernando to the extent that neither player could launch himself into the air to take a shot.
Michigan Head Coach John Beilein commended his team’s defensive maturity and stated that the Feb. 24 loss against Michigan State helped the Wolverines renew their focus.
“You have to learn that you just can’t walk in this game and be halfway focused when you’re playing in this atmosphere against a team of this talent and a coaching staff like this. You can’t,” said Beilein. “That’s how you learn.”
After the game, Maryland Head Coach Mark Turgeon appeared subdued. In addition to the importance of winning a home conference game in March, the Terps are celebrating the 100th season of men’s basketball, and many of the greatest players in Maryland history were present at the game and recognized for their achievements.
“We’re just disappointed. We’re disappointed that we didn’t win. It’s the 100-year celebration, and the players are back. We wanted to win; we wanted this bad today, and we just couldn’t get it. We just didn’t get it done,” said Turgeon.
“Nobody wants to lose a game, especially playing on your home floor, but this is the time of year we need to stick together,” said Fernando. “We’ve got to get work in and move on…tonight was a historic night for us and Maryland basketball, and not being able to win a game is definitely disappointing, but we have to stick together and bounce back next game.”
On March 8, the Terps have the opportunity to close the regular season on a high note when the Minnesota Golden Gophers come to town. Maryland handily won the first meeting between the two teams earlier this year by a score of 82-67.