CHICAGO — The Big Ten Tournament might not linger longingly for Jahmir Young.
Young, a graduate student point guard who has been the spark plug for the Maryland men’s basketball program and earned a spot on the conference’s second team on Tuesday, scored a respectable 27 points in tournament games against Minnesota and Indiana. But he went a combined 6 of 28 in those starts, did most of his damage at the free-throw line where he converted 14 of 17 attempts, and committed nearly as many turnovers (four) as he had assists (five).
The No. 6 seed Terps’ 70-60 loss to No. 3 seed Indiana on Friday night in a quarterfinal posed a difficult matchup for the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Young. Against the Hoosiers’ 6-6, 213-pound Jalen Hood-Schifino — the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year — Young missed 12 of 15 shots (including 4 of 5 from 3-point range) and finished with a minus-10 in 36 minutes.
While noting that he has asked Young “to do a lot,” Maryland coach Kevin Willard conceded that Indiana’s size throughout its roster was a challenge.
“They don’t have any small guys,” he said. “For Jahmir, I thought [6-8, 235-pound redshirt senior small forward] Race [Thompson] did a heck of a job on switches. I thought they did a really good job of just being physical with us. You know, having to play a tough game [Thursday] night [against Minnesota], I thought Jahmir did the best he can against their size.”
Here are three takeaways from Friday’s outcome.
Maryland’s defense picked an inopportune time to be generous
Under Willard’s direction, the Terps have prided themselves on playing the kind of defense that can nullify opponents’ top weapons, create turnovers, and basically force teams into submission.
That didn’t happen against Indiana. Senior power forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, Hood-Schifino and senior small forward Miller Kopp combined to score 53 points, and even freshman power forward Malik Reneau came off the bench to provide eight points and 11 rebounds.
The Hoosiers turned the ball over just 10 times, which Maryland converted into 10 points. But they overcame those miscues by dominating the paint, doubling the Terps 36-18.
Indiana was especially effective in transition, outscoring the Terps 13-4 on fastbreaks. That was a dramatic reversal from Maryland’s 66-55 victory over the Hoosiers on Jan. 31 at home when they scored just two points on fastbreaks.
“They got a lot of transition buckets, where we struggled at tonight,” graduate student shooting guard Don Carey said. “I think that’s where they really hurt us at — in transition early. We struggled to get it going offensively early in the second half, as well.”
Willard pointed out that Hood-Schifino, who compiled 19 points, six rebounds and three blocks, was particularly aggressive in attacking the Terps’ defense.
“I thought he got himself going in transition, much better than he did the first time,” Willard said, referring to Hood-Schifino’s outing of three points on 1 of 14 shooting, five rebounds, four assists and four turnovers. “I thought we did a much better job in transition defense at home. I thought transition defense was really the difference. And I thought he did a great job of really attacking and getting downhill.”
Trayce Jackson-Davis reminded everyone of his potential
At 6-9 and 245 pounds, Jackson-Davis has been projected as a second-round choice in several 2023 NBA mock drafts. On Friday night, the unanimous first-team All-Big Ten choice played like a lottery pick.
Jackson-Davis scored a game-high 24 points on 8 of 13 shooting and 8 of 13 free-throw trips, grabbed nine rebounds, dished out seven assists, blocked four shots, and made three steals while committing only two turnovers. It was the type of all-around performance that makes him a tantalizing prospect in NBA circles.
“You’ve got to give Trayce a lot of credit,” Willard said. “I thought he was phenomenal, just nonstop. For playing 38 minutes, he’s an elite player. He really is. I’m looking forward to watching him in the NBA next year.”
Jackson-Davis’ outing against the Terps wasn’t a one-hit wonder. In that regular-season meeting on Jan. 31, Jackson-Davis racked up 18 points and 20 rebounds but was relatively quiet in the other categories (two assists, one block, one steal).
Jackson-Davis’ ability to distribute the ball and initiate the offense was welcomed by Indiana coach Mike Woodson.
“He pushes it up the floor and initiates our break,” he said. “I don’t want robots. I want guys that feel good about what they do when they’re out there on the floor, and Trayce is a prime example. He’s having a wonderful season.”
Kevin Willard is not above a little indignation
In the last few weeks, Willard has been a serious coach who protects his players but was also willing to poke fun at himself. And that made him well-liked among local media that has covered him and the team.
So Willard’s final comment at Friday night’s postgame news conference seemed unexpected. When he was asked about “refocusing” ahead of the NCAA Tournament, he bristled.
“I love my team. I don’t know what I have to refocus,” he said. “We’ve won 21 games. You can go and refocus. Maybe you should because I’m proud of this team. This team is pretty damn good. Come Selection Sunday, we’re going to celebrate. Again, we lost at Ohio State who’s in the semifinals and has won six out of seven. We lost on a buzzer-beater at Penn State who has now won seven out of eight. So I’m not refocused on anything.”
As much as sports information directors and tournament organizers try to build in cooling-off periods between games and postgame conferences, the frustration of a loss can linger. An amateur psychologist’s view might be that Willard’s temperature might have been rising.
Earlier in the conference, he was asked whether he was looking to “refocus” anything with sophomore power forward Julian Reese and graduate student power forward Patrick Emilien dealing with foul trouble in the second half. Willard replied, “Refocus what?” When the reporter asked the question again, he said, “Yeah, I’m going to skip that one.”
So maybe it’s the term “refocus” or “refocusing” that grates Willard. Maybe it suggests an erroneous plan or a lack of action that has escaped the attention of the coach and his staff, which would irritate anyone on that stage.
Was Willard’s reaction over the top? Sure. But from a first-year coach who has worked diligently to reshape a program left in tatters by the previous regime, it seems another sign of his passion and dedication to the Terps. And after what has transpired since Gary Williams retired in 2011, that might not be a bad thing.