By Jack Rothenberg
A torrid shooting performance in the first half wasn’t enough to offset a poor defensive outing as the Maryland Terrapins gave up over 80 points for the first time in three years, falling to the Michigan Wolverines 84-73 on New Year’s Eve. A late push by the Terps made the final score look respectable, but the Wolverines blew the game open mid-way through the second half as Maryland went cold from the field. After putting together a fantastic upset in Madison earlier in the week, Maryland walked away from Xfinity Center with their head high but missed an opportunity to crack the top 25 for the first time this season.
Maryland wasn’t able to develop an inside presence all night, and it showed as they only attempted six free throws the entire game compared to Michigan’s 20. The Wolverines also recorded six blocks, five in the first half, all within two feet of the basket. Michigan’s freshman center Hunter Dickinson, who is from the DMV area and played at Dematha last season, had a big effect in the paint with 26 points and 11 rebounds. At least in the first half the Terps made up for the absence of inside scoring by shooting 9/11 from beyond the arc. Sophomore forward Donta Scott and junior forward Jairus Hamilton were 4-4 and 3-3 respectively from deep, and Scott capped off the end of the first half with an NBA range three to narrow the lead to 46-44 going into halftime.
A troubling sight for the Terps came with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. As junior guard Eric Ayala was probing the baseline, he dished it to a cutting Daryll Morsell who got fouled going to the basket and was hit in the head. At first glance it didn’t seem to be too bad of a collision for the senior guard. However, he was removed from the game and checked out by the team trainers. Morsell wouldn’t return to the game and came out of the locker room at the start of the second half in street clothes. According to head coach Mark Turgeon he went to a trauma center following the game, but his status is still unknown. “I don’t want to comment on something that I don’t know yet, but we should know [soon]…Everything changed when Darryl got hurt. Everything changed. We were a thin team before. We became even thinner.”
Less than two minutes into the second half, junior guard Aaron Wiggins joined the three point party and gave the Terps their first lead of the game at 47-46. Similar to the contest against Wisconsin, Maryland switched between man-to-man and a 3-2 zone in order to give the Wolverines different looks on defense. They came out in the 3-2 to start the second half and were able to string enough stops together to take a four point lead just after the under 16 minute TV timeout. Yet, Michigan immediately answered with a 10-0 run to regain their long-held lead at 60-54, and seemed destined to pull away. But Hamilton was able to stop the run by knocking down a long two, and on the next offensive possession for Maryland they appeared to have re-established their hot shooting abilities from the first half when Scott hit his fifth three of night to cut the Wolverines’ lead back to one, regaining some momentum for Maryland.
This spurt provided false hope for Maryland fans, because the Terps went on to miss three consecutive threes along with a turnover that led to an energizing breakaway dunk by Michigan’s sophomore guard Franz Wagner that boosted Michigan’s momentum. Despite a timeout by Maryland, the Wolverines continued their momentum, capping off a 13-0 run and a 14 point lead for Michigan. The game spiraled out of control and even with seven minutes and change left on the game clock, you could kiss this one goodbye. “We weren’t [as] on point as we usually are. I think in practice we have to be more in tune…Just being able to guard, that’s where we kind of lost the game,” Ayala said.
Due to Michigan controlling the inside, Maryland needed a carbon copy of the first half in terms of three point shooting in the second half. However, expecting the Terps to maintain their first half pace, shooting above 80% from three, would be like expecting people to keep up with their New Year’s Resolutions. Maryland will face the Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall on Jan. 4th in their first game of the new year. The Terps will look to continue to bring their own energy, and complete their second upset on the road early in the season.
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