By Jack Rothenberg
Poor free throw shooting and a large size differential was the difference when the Purdue Boilermakers defeated the Maryland Terrapins in West Lafayette, 73-70 on Christmas Day. It was evident that both teams made sure to warm up by the fire before gametime, because they each knocked down 10 threes and shot over 43% from the floor. Yet, Maryland couldn’t keep warm at the free throw line, as they went 10-21 and on the defensive side were outrebounded by 10, giving up 10 offensive boards in the process. With the outside temperature hovering in the teens, the Boilermakers turned Mackey Arena into a three point sauna shooting a steaming hot 54 percent (7/13) from behind the three point arc and making eight of nine free throws. Maryland made a respectable 4-10 from three – particularly considering that two of the attempts came from Chol Marial – but failed to generate any heat at the free throw line missing eight of their ten attempts.
It was another balanced attack for the Terps, with three starters scoring in double figures. However, head coach Mark Turgeon was more impressed with his bench, which provided 23 points in the losing effort. “Chol [Marial] played good minutes, [the] best minutes of his career. Reese Mona gave us a lift, Aquan Smart was good, a lot of guys played well. We just got to keep plugging and getting better,” Turgeon said.
Maryland began with a smaller lineup, with sophomore guard Hakim Hart starting in place of senior guard Darryl Morsell and junior forward Jarius Hamilton starting over senior forward Galin Smith, although the small lineup didn’t last long, with Smith checking in just one minute after tip-off. Sophomore center Chol Marial soon replaced Smith and made an instant impact. Facing a big Purdue squad, Marial played 12 effective minutes including nine in the first half and contributed 3 points, 2 rebounds and 1 block.
But his impact went beyond the stat sheet. Marial drew fouls and affected Boilermaker shot attempts in the paint. Even though Marial didn’t shine as bright as Christmas decor, the team was still encouraged by his play. “Chol has been improving over time so much and I knew he was going to have a game where he just stepped up and he played to the best of his ability, and today was one of those games,” junior guard Aaron Wiggins said.
Purdue’s decisive run came in the middle of the first half when the Boilermakers outscored the Terrapins 14-2 to take a 15 point lead. A three pointer by Aaron Wiggins cut the lead to nine with 1:42 to play but Purdue scored the final four points of the half and led 41-28 at the break.
In the second half, Maryland and Purdue went back and forth like family members giving out gifts on Christmas morning. A three pointer by Jarius Hamilton capped a 17-5 Maryland run over the opening seven minutes of the half and pulled the Terps within one at 46-45. It was then Purdue’s turn to give their fans some gifts. On the ensuing three possessions the Boilermakers went on an 8-0 run of their own by hitting two threes and a lay-up.
It took sophomore forward Donta Scott 31 minutes to score his first points but he was huge for the Terps over the game’s final nine minutes, scoring all 15 of his points in that span leading another Maryland comeback that tied the game at 70, with under a minute to play.
The Terps’ offensive execution late in the game was sub-par. With the Terps trailing 72-70, Morsell missed two free throws that could have again evened the score with 19 seconds left. Maryland committed a quick foul on Purdue’s star big man Trevion Williams who made one of two free throws keeping it a one score game. Junior guard Eric Ayala forced a shot through a double team hoping to draw a foul to get three free throws. Those sequence of plays wrapped up the contest and put a ribbon on it.
“Our guys battled, and that’s all I can ask. We always felt like we were going to win and we didn’t, but we always felt like we were. We just couldn’t get over the hump,” Turgeon said.
According to Turgeon, Ayala, and Wiggins, Maryland is improving each and every day. The Terps hope to make a big jump in their next game against a top 10 Wisconsin squad on Dec. 28, that defeated No. 12 Michigan State 85-76 on Thursday.
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