Maryland's continuing quest for basketball redemption led it to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, with the opportunity to fashion an upbeat ending to a season that had once seemed all but lost.
But after winning five of their previous six games, the Terps saw their season end in the National Invitation Tournament semifinals as an old problem — turnovers — resurfaced at a particularly inopportune time.
Iowa's 71-60 victory was forged largely by defense and Roy Devyn Marble, who scored 21 points. The Hawkeyes collected 27 points off 17 Maryland turnovers.
“They were ready and we weren't,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “I thought we played incredibly hard. We just didn't play smart enough to win tonight. We were really excited and we didn't handle the big stage very well.”
In falling behind early, the Terps (25-13) did not quite look like themselves. Senior James Padgett was recovering from a stomach illness. Freshman Seth Allen warmed up with his broken shooting hand wrapped, but could not play. Junior Pe'Shon Howard had an undisclosed problem with his No. 21 jersey and switched to No. 1 in the first half.
Maryland's leading scorer, Dez Wells, was battling a bruised knee. The swingman was limited by foul trouble before fouling out in the final minutes with nine points.
Knowing Maryland has been error-prone, the Hawkeyes (25-12) pressed the Terps early and converted turnovers into fast-break points.
Maryland also struggled at times against Iowa's zone in the second half.
“We don't get zoned in the [Atlantic Coast Conference],” Turgeon said.
Alex Len led the Terps with 16 points. Maryland fans now will wait to see whether the 7-foot-1 Len will return for his junior season or depart for the NBA draft. Len is projected as a high first-round pick in most mock drafts.
“We're going to do what's best for Alex,” Turgeon said.
After trailing by a dozen points in the second half, the Terps cut the margin to 49-45 on a 3-pointer by Nick Faust (City) with 11:57 left. But Iowa scored the next seven points.
Iowa clung to a 66-60 lead after a basket by Len with 2:16 left. But the Terps could draw no closer.
The Hawkeyes advanced to face Baylor, which defeated Brigham Young, 76-70, in Tuesday night's first semifinal.
The Terps' long season — it has been nearly five months since they opened their schedule in Brooklyn's Barclays Center with a loss to Kentucky — played out into what seemed like two separate ones.
Since losing a 17-point lead and the game to Virginia in their regular-season finale, the Terps defeated Wake Forest and Duke in the ACC tournament before reeling off three wins in the NIT.
“It's good to play well late, and that's what we did, starting with the ACC tournament,” Maryland guard Logan Aronhalt said.
But Aronhalt spoke softly and seemed drained — as well as disappointed — after Tuesday night's game. “We wanted to win so much,” he said.
Aronhalt and Padgett missed the team's afternoon shootaround Tuesday with a stomach virus and were questionable for the game. Both ended their college careers Tuesday night.
Aronhalt entered early in the first half and scored nine points. Padgett played in the second half and did not score.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon measures his team partly by how many times it gets to the foul line. The Terps went there just once in the first half — compared to Iowa's 14 attempts — and were 9-for-16 overall.
On defense, the Terps were tasked with slowing down Marble. Iowa's junior guard had averaged 25.3 points and 5.3 assists in Iowa's first three NIT games.
Marble hit four of his first five shots from the field. He often was guarded by Howard.
“You've just got to love your time in March,” Marble said.
In the first half, Iowa went on an 11-0 run and led by as many 14 points.
The Terps, who had 10 first-half turnovers, made a run to trim Iowa's lead to 38-33 at the break.