No. 22 Maryland men’s basketball remained unbeaten with its 79-54 win over Louisville on Tuesday night. From another strong performance by senior Donta Scott to the Terps’ 3-point outburst in the second half, here are three takeaways from new coach Kevin Willard’s seventh win in as many games at Maryland.
Donta Scott continues to roll
Scott showed on Tuesday an elite skill set that makes one understand why Willard believes the 6-foot-8 forward is a first-team All-Big Ten Conference caliber player.
Scott scored from everywhere on the court against the Cardinals, knocking down open 3-pointers while also getting to the basket for points in the paint. He finished with a team-high 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting — including 3 of 6 from beyond the arc — to go with five rebounds, two assists and a team-high two blocks.
“I think he’s getting used to me, and I think he’s getting used to the offense,” Willard said. “He’s playing at a really good pace.”
Scott and point guard Jahmir Young (15 points, five rebounds and five assists) were on early, heling the Terps jump out to a 20-8 lead. Scott hit a pull-up jumper near the free throw line before powering toward the rim for a layup while drawing the foul on his way to 12 first-half points.
Scott, who is noticeably slimmer after dropping 30 pounds in the offseason, is playing some of the best basketball of his career, averaging 19 points and six rebounds over the past four games. He was dominant during the 2022 Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament, averaging 24.5 points in two games against quality opponents in Saint Louis and Miami (Fla.).
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Willard said of his senior forward. “He’s a first-team All-Big Ten player and playing like that.”
Maryland was automatic from the 3-point line to open the second half.
After going 3-for-13 in the opening 20 minutes, the Terps couldn’t miss in the second, making five consecutive threes after the break as they built on their 37-26 halftime lead and turned the game into a rout. Transfer guard Don Carey stole the ball before hitting a 3-pointer off an assist from Hakim Hart. Scott and Hart then traded outside shots before Carey pulled up from the top of the key to convert his second 3-pointer of the night, giving the Terps a 49-30 lead with 17:25 left.
Maryland, which finished 9-for-24 from deep, shot 54.5% from the 3-point line in the second.
“I think we’ve come out a little bit too casual on the offensive end,” Willard said. “We [were] getting open looks [but] were not playing offense with the same intensity as [our] defense. I thought we were a little bit more focused on the offensive end [in the second half].”
The Terps’ outside shooting has been inconsistent through seven games. They combined to go 22-for-53 (41.5%) from deep in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament but struggled against Coppin State, making just 4 of 21 attempts. They were even worse in their 20-point win over Western Carolina on Nov. 10, finishing 2-for-19 from three, but they seem to be trending in the right direction as the schedule gets tougher.
End of an era
Tuesday night marked Maryland’s final ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the foreseeable future.
ESPN announced on Monday that the event will be terminated after a 23-year run that started in 1999 and be replaced by an ACC/SEC Challenge for men’s and women’s basketball starting next season.
The announcement came months after the Big Ten agreed to a massive media rights deal that would have men’s basketball games broadcast on the Big Ten Network, Fox, CBS and Peacock. The $7 billion deal goes into effect in 2023.
Maryland finished with a 12-12 record in the annual event, with most of that success coming on the other side of it as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Terps improved to 2-7 in the Challenge as a member of the Big Ten with Tuesday’s win after going 10-5 while in the ACC.
Longtime fans will note that Maryland never got an opportunity to face Duke, its former ACC rival, in the Challenge, and only played North Carolina once, an 89-81 loss in Chapel Hill during the 2015-16 season.
No. 16 Illinois at No. 22 Maryland
Friday, 9 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 105.7 FM