The first clue came after practice Thursday, when Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon announced that sophomore forward Justin Jackson was out for the season with a torn labrum.
A few minutes after talking about what Jackson’s loss meant to the Terps, Turgeon mentioned “the matchup problems" the Retrievers might present Friday at Xfinity Center.
Unfortunately for Maryland, Turgeon wasn’t kidding.
Senior guard K.J. Maura, who is generously listed at 5 feet 7, scored nine points of his 12 points and helped the Retrievers take a shocking halftime lead.
Until being rescued by sophomore guard Kevin Huerter’s hot second-half shooting, the Terps had played what Turgeon called “one of the worst halves one of my teams have ever played.”
Trailing by six after UMBC’s Jairus Lyles hit a wide open 3-pointer right before the halftime buzzer for a 24-18 lead, Huerter scored 16 of his game-high 20 points in the second half to lead the Terps to a 66-45 victory.
Lyles led UMBC (8-6) with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
“It started out with a lack of energy, and probably a lack of focus on the offensive end,” said Huerter, who made five of seven shots in the second half, including four of six 3-pointers, to finish 7-for-12 overall and 4-for-8 from 3-point range. “I thought we guarded them well all night.”
It was lowest scoring first half for Maryland (12-3) since it took a 17-14 halftime lead at Michigan State in the team’s first-ever Big Ten game four years ago.
“I was saying to myself I gave them too much time off over Christmas,” said Turgeon, who earned his 400th career victory and 150th at Maryland. “We were rusty. We had no gumption. We just talked about at halftime just doing everything harder, playing harder, and we did.
“That was a good team, a team that is extremely well-coached that we really guarded well. They missed some shots for us, especially in the first half [UMBC was just 8-for-33, including 4-for-19 on 3-pointers]. It could have been worse than six.”
The Terps now have three days to get ready for the resumption of the Big Ten schedule Tuesday against Penn State. Turgeon said that he would take more from what his team showed in the second half than how poorly it played in the first half.
“I was much more happy with what happened in the second half,” Turgeon said. “That was the most fun I’ve had all year coaching this team.”
Injury woes continue: Aside from losing Jackson for rest of the season, the Terps might have also lost Ivan Bender. The redshirt junior forward had to be helped off the court early in the second half.
Though the extent of the injury isn’t known, Bender was holding his right knee. When he came to Maryland three years ago after playing on the Croatian junior national team, Bender had undergone two ACL surgeries on his left knee.
The Terps also lost popular walk-on Andrew Terrell, who tore ligaments in his ankle at practice Thursday and is expected to be out up to six weeks.
“It was a tough day yesterday,” Turgeon said. “We had to announce Justin and then Andrew got injured at the end of practice so we had to stop practice. I think it carried over a little bit [into the game].”
As for Bender, Turgeon said more will be known Saturday.
Shuffling the lineup: Turgeon wound up starting senior wing Jared Nickens at Jackson’s spot. Making his first start since the opening game last season and the 11th of his career — with nine coming when he was a freshman — Nickens finished with just four points after hitting a late 3-pointer.
Bender would have likely started at power forward against Penn State, but that now seems doubtful.
“If there’s something wrong with Ivan, we’ll figure something out,” Turgeon said. “We might have to play Ceko [Michal Cekovsky] and [freshman center] Bruno [Fernando] together some [or] go small.”
Said Huerter: “I think we also learned a lot from this game, learned a little more about how to play without Justin. I think we’ll get better as every game goes on.”
Huerter said that the “mood was a little different” because of the injuries to Jackson and Terrell, but quickly added, “It’s really no excuse to start the game the way we did.”
Big men have tough night scoring: Maryland’s gameplan was to go inside against the smaller Retrievers early.
On the first possession, Fernando missed a short turnaround in the lane. It sort of set the tone for a long night offensively for Maryland’s big men.
While both Cekovsky and Fernando played well defensively, particularly in the second half, and Fernando had a dunk late in the game, the Terps couldn’t take advantage of their size and strength.
Fernando finished with eight points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes against UMBC, but Cekovsky struggled on the offensive end, missing all four shots and going scoreless.
Redshirt freshman Joshua Tomaic played just one minute toward the end of the game.
“We didn’t catch the ball deep enough tonight,” Turgeon said of his team’s lack of inside scoring. “We’ll get better and we’ve been working really hard with Ceko and Bruno scoring on the low block, but I think it was one of those nights where we never got into a rhythm.”
After being outrebounded in the first half 23-21, the Terps finished with only a 39-34 advantage.