COLLEGE PARK — An announced crowd of 12,810 at Xfinity Center stood quiet. No. 20 Maryland men’s basketball and Hofstra were knotted at 67 while sophomore guard Ian Martinez stood at the free-throw line trying to give the Terps the lead with four seconds left.
Martinez stood confidently at the line, as he had a feeling he could be in this situation when he was practicing free throws hours before tip-off. Martinez hit both attempts while graduate student point guard Fatts Russell stole an inbounds pass in the final two seconds to seal a nail-biting 69-67 victory on Friday evening.
“I’ve got to think like I’m the only one in the gym,” said Martinez, a transfer from Utah. “It worked for me.”
Ayala scored 14 points and Russell and Martinez added 13 each to lead the Terps (4-1), who bounced back from a 71-66 loss to George Mason on Wednesday. Ayala made a game-tying layup with 22 seconds left before blocking a go-ahead 3-point attempt, which led to Martinez getting fouled while corralling the ball.
“Eric had the big block there,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “I thought the last three possessions defensively we couldn’t play better than [how] we played.”
Freshman forward Julian Reese (St. Frances) had 10 points and six rebounds while junior forward Qudus Wahab scored six points in just eight minutes, all in the first half.
Through Maryland’s first three games, Martinez has been a constant presence in the Terps’ bench rotation. Martinez showcased his defensive versatility, but Friday night was his moment to show what he could truly do on offense.
Maryland jumped out to a 24-20 lead before running into a rough stretch in which it recorded four turnovers and was held scoreless for five minutes. With 2:35 remaining in the first half, the home crowd was silent when Hofstra guard Zach Cooks nailed a 3-pointer to give the Pride a 31-27 lead. Maryland played sloppy basketball for a good chunk of the game, committing 16 turnovers.
Suddenly, Martinez ignited a spark. The Utah transfer scored seven straight points to give the Terps a one-point advantage, 32-31. Ayala dished the ball to Martinez, who delivered a one-handed slam, and the Terps finished the half on a 7-0 run to take a 34-31 lead.
“This [was] the Ian we see everyday,” Russell said. “He could shoot it. He’s a really great defender. He kind of showed the whole package.”
Maryland’s victory was a coming out party for Martinez while Reese once again showcased his immense potential. Even though the vibes were great after the game, it still doesn’t take away from the fact the Terps were in a position they shouldn’t have been in to begin with.
Hofstra played a small lineup, which forced Turgeon to go small as well. Wahab, who tallied six points and six rebounds, didn’t play the entire second half. With Wahab sidelined, Turgeon opened the second half with Russell, Ayala, Martinez and junior forwards Xavier Green and Donta Scott. Reese received a significant amount of minutes down the stretch because his quickness allowed him to better guard the Pride’s players.
“Tonight, it [was] the Larry Brown in me,” Turgeon said. “I had to figure out how to win the game. It was lineups we haven’t practiced. It didn’t always look great but it gave us the best chance to win.”
Maryland’s defense came through when it needed it the most. However, the Terps’ perimeter defense was exposed, as they allowed 12 3-pointers for the second straight game.
One of the biggest reasons Hofstra nearly pulled off the upset was Maryland’s inconsistent offense. The Terps would go on scoring runs and then all of a sudden start missing shots. They finished the game shooting 41.7% from the floor while converting just five of their 22 3-point attempts.
With 15:43 remaining in the game, Reese swatted Cooks’ layup attempt. Ayala grabbed the rebound and passed to Russell, who sped down the court before dishing it to Scott for a two-handed dunk that gave Maryland a 45-40 lead. A wave of offense followed. Ayala nailed a 3-pointer while Reese dominated in the low post, scoring six points in a five-minute span to give the Terps a 54-48 lead.
Martinez nailed a jumper to give Maryland a 56-50 lead before the Terps missed four consecutive shots. Hofstra, meanwhile, continued to attack the paint to take a 61-60 lead with 4:31 left in regulation.
Despite the Terps converting just one of seven shots, they were able to take the lead thanks to Russell’s ability to attack the rim and get to the free-throw line. The Rhode Island transfer hit two free throws to give Maryland a 63-61 lead.
Turgeon said Maryland is a work-in-progress, and it’s hard to argue with that. After the Terps played four close games against midmajor opponents, it’s hard to get a good read on what type of group the Terps will be this season.
Maybe a few days in the Bahamas will allow them to find their identity and offensive consistency.
“Going down to warm weather and just bonding, maybe we’ll come back one of the hottest teams shooting the ball in America,” Turgeon said. “But as long as we keep guarding and defending, we will give ourselves a chance.”
Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship
NO. 20 MARYLAND VS. RICHMOND
Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: 105.7 FM