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Maryland men’s basketball bows out of Big Ten tournament with 79-66 loss to Michigan in quarterfinals

Maryland guard Darryl Morsell (11) shoots under Michigan guard Franz Wagner (21) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten Conference tournament in Indianapolis, Friday, March 12, 2021. Michigan defeated Maryland 79-66. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Maryland guard Darryl Morsell (11) shoots under Michigan guard Franz Wagner (21) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten Conference tournament in Indianapolis, Friday, March 12, 2021. Michigan defeated Maryland 79-66. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) (Michael Conroy)

The Maryland men’s basketball team entered its quarterfinal game in the Big Ten tournament against Michigan playing freely and with confidence, assured that its body of work in the regular season and an opening-game win over Michigan State was enough to solidify its place in the NCAA tournament.

And after being thoroughly beaten by the Wolverines in two regular-season matchups, the Terps looked like an improved team through one half.

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But eighth-seeded Maryland, which led by as many as 12 in the first half, quickly unraveled as it lost to top-seeded Michigan, 79-66, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Friday afternoon.

Wolverines graduate transfer Mike Smith recorded 18 points and 15 assists, a new career-high and a Big Ten tournament record.

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“The little point guard was terrific,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said of the 5-foot-11 Smith. “He totally controlled the game.”

Eric Ayala led Maryland with 19 points, while Darryl Morsell (16 points) and Aaron Wiggins (11 points) also scored in double figures.

After trailing by 12 in the first half, Michigan (20-3, 15-3 Big Ten) went on a 33-11 run connecting both halves and led by as many as 15 late in the second.

“When you get a team like that down, you’ve got to bury them,” Morsell said. “You got your foot on the neck, you got to leave it on their neck. You can’t give them any confidence. End of that first half, they found confidence, they found their rhythm and it just carried over into the second half.

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“But I do want to say we played hard. We played all the way to the end. We made them adjust to us. We made them [play more] zone [defense] than they probably play. But they definitely found confidence and they were hitting shots in the second half.”

Maryland (16-13, 10-12), which shot 62.5% from the field in the first half and 5-for-10 from beyond the arc, shot 36.7% from the field in the second and made just 3 of 16 from the 3-point line, including 11 straight misses from deep to begin the half.

“A little disappointed that we didn’t shoot the ball a little bit better,” Turgeon said. “I thought we got some really good looks. We did shoot a little too quickly sometimes, but I thought we got some really good looks out there and we just didn’t make them. When they got looks, they made them. There’s a reason they’re a [projected] one seed [in the NCAA tournament]. They’re a really good basketball team.”

Ayala and Morsell had similar praise for the fourth-ranked Wolverines. Ayala said the only team he has competed against in his three years at Maryland that rivals Michigan is the 2018-19 Virginia team that won the NCAA tournament. Morsell said the Wolverines were among the “top-five teams I’ve ever played in college.”

A one-handed dunk by Wiggins over Franz Wagner was the highlight of the Terps’ short-lived lead and upset bid, part of a first-half surge in which the Terps made eight straight shot attempts.

Michigan ended the half on a 16-2 run over the final 4:15 and Maryland trailed at halftime, 40-38. The Terps were out-rebounded by the Wolverines, 15-10, in the first half and seven offensive rebounds by Michigan led to 10 second-chance points. Maryland, which recorded six offensive rebounds in the entire game, had no second-chance points.

“Those guys are big,” Turgeon said. “Those ball screens are tough. And because they’re so big, you’re not able to switch on them. Then they did a great job of driving the ball, Wagner, and they got downhill and then they made shots. They made some tough ones during the stretch. It was unfortunate. You would like to have the lead at half. I think that would have been big for our confidence.”

Key players from both teams spent much of the first half on the bench with foul trouble. Freshman center Hunter Dickinson (six points), who recorded a then-career-high 26 points in the first meeting between the teams, played just six minutes after picking up two fouls with nine minutes left in the half. Morsell sat the final 7:50 of the half after picking up his second foul.

As Michigan’s high-powered offense pushed its lead greater and stayed in its matchup zone defense, Morsell was the only player to provide a spark for much of the second half. The Baltimore native scored Maryland’s first nine points in the second.

Michigan coach Juwan Howard was given a double technical foul and ejected after both teams exchanged words during the under-12 media timeout. Howard, the 2021 Big Ten Coach of the Year, had to be restrained by his assistants, while Turgeon also received a technical.

Seven total technicals were given out in the first two meetings between the teams, and three additional ones on Friday.

“This has been going on for three games,” Turgeon said. “I’ve been doing this for 34 years and I’ve called the conference office, I’ve called the commissioner about what transpired in the first two games. And I said I wasn’t going to take it the third game. I stood up for my team, I stood up for me. … All I said was don’t talk to me … Never back down, I just stood there and said don’t talk to me.”

Said Howard: “[Turgeon] charged at me. And that right there — I don’t know how you guys were raised but how I was raised by my grandmother and also by Chicago, because I was raised by Chicago and I grew up in the South Side, when guys charge you, it’s time to defend yourself. And especially when a grown man charges you. And that right there, I went into defense mode and forgetting exactly where I’m at. That’s not the right way how to handle the situation when you come at and charge someone. I didn’t charge him. So, when he charged me, I reacted. And I reacted out of defense.”

The spat seemingly sparked the Terps, who responded with five straight points to get within five, 57-52, with 9:49 remaining. But a 9-0 run, including seven points from Smith, gave the Wolverines a 15-point lead with 2:08 left.

Maryland, projected to make the NCAA tournament, will now stay in Indianapolis for Selection Sunday to hear its fate.

“We’ve overcome a lot,” Ayala said. “A lot of teams, a lot of people counted us out at the beginning of the year, didn’t think we were going to be that good. We’re still standing. We’ve got another game. So, I think as a team and me individually, along with the coaches, we all just want to get prepared for the next game, put this one behind us and keep our season alive. At this point, our next game could be our last game. So, I’m sure our seniors — Darryl, Galin [Smith], Reese [Mona] — we all want to compete and make their season a little longer.”

NCAA SELECTION SHOW

Sunday, 6 p.m.

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TV: Chs. 13, 9

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