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Terps

Maryland men’s basketball flattened by Michigan, 83-64, in fifth loss in past six games

Inside the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Tuesday night were two slumping men’s basketball teams. Maryland and Michigan, both ranked in the Top 25 at the start of the season, faced each other with the hope of keeping their seasons from falling deeper into oblivion.

The Wolverines answered the call, defeating the Terps, 83-64, in a game that felt like it was over before it even began.

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Maryland (9-9, 1-6 Big Ten) looked out of sync on both ends of the floor, falling into a 20-point deficit in the first half in suffering its fifth loss in the past six games. The Terps missed open shots and turned the ball over while the Wolverines (8-7, 2-3) locked in on defense and moved the ball well. Sophomore center Hunter Dickinson delivered a complete performance, recording 21 points, six rebounds and six assists.

The Terps managed to cut Michigan’s lead to 13 midway through the second half thanks to scoring outbursts from senior guard Eric Ayala (22 points) and junior forward Donta Scott (19 points). But after graduate transfer guard Fatts Russell (four points) missed a layup in transition, the Wolverines scored six straight points to put the game out of reach.

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“We came out and we gave them too many clean looks on the post,” Terps interim coach Danny Manning said. “We were doubling the post early on and Hunter did a really good job at finding their shooters, and they made shots and it kind of snowballed from there.”

After last season’s three physical and emotional matchups — which included Dickinson criticizing Maryland for not recruiting him and former Terps coach Mark Turgeon and Wolverines coach Juwan Howard getting into a heated exchange during the Big Ten tournament — many had Tuesday’s game circled on their calendars. Michigan being ranked sixth and Maryland coming in at No. 21 in the AP preseason poll only added more fuel to a budding rivalry.

But what transpired in the past three months was a downhill spiral by both programs many didn’t see coming. The Terps quickly fell out of the Top 25 before Turgeon parted ways with a program that is still searching for its identity. Meanwhile, Michigan, a team with national title aspirations and the third-best recruiting class in the country, went from being ranked No. 6 to outside of the Top 25 by the start of December. Caleb Houstan, the prize possession of Michigan’s 2021 recruiting class, hasn’t lived up to the NBA lottery pick hype.

When Maryland played the Wolverines on Tuesday night, the excitement wasn’t there. Turgeon wasn’t on the sideline and the Terps were more focused on recovering from a deflating loss to Rutgers in which they blew an 11-point halftime lead. Michigan, meanwhile, entered with a three-game losing streak after falling by 15 to Illinois and postponing two games because of COVID protocols.

Yet, somebody had to win Tuesday night. Michigan delivered.

Maryland went with a platoon swap in the starting five with sophomore Ian Martinez, graduate student Xavier Green and junior Qudus Wahab replacing Russell, junior Hakim Hart and freshman Julian Reese (St. Frances), who made his first career start against Rutgers.

Manning said after the game that he left Hart and Russell out of the starting lineup as a way to “challenge them.”

Maryland’s lineup switch didn’t help much, as the Wolverines jumped out to a 11-4 lead. Houstan got the hot hand early, scoring eight of Michigan’s first 16 points. The Wolverines’ defense was disruptive, forcing the Terps to commit six turnovers in the opening nine minutes.

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Michigan guard Frankie Collins stole the ball from Martinez before speeding down the court for a layup. After the Wolverines forced Hart to lose the ball out of bounds, Michigan forward Moussa Diabate delivered a two-handed slam, giving his team a 20-9 lead with 11 minutes remaining in the first half.

After Ayala’s first basket cut the deficit to 22-14, Michigan went on a commanding 10-0 run. Guard Eli Brooks and Dickinson nailed a pair of 3-pointers before Diabate threw down another two-handed dunk to extend the Wolverines’ lead to 32-14 with 3:49 remaining in the half.

When Brooks buried his second 3-pointer of the half to give the Wolverines a 21-point advantage, it was clear that it wasn’t Maryland’s night.

The Terps converted one of their last 10 shot attempts to trail 39-19 at half. Nothing was going their way, as they missed open outside shots, going 2-for-10 from 3-point range in the first half. Ayala and Russell combined for four points on 2-for-9 shooting, while Hart scored one point on a free throw.

“We’re far too talented of a team to only have 19 points at halftime,” Manning said. “Michigan is a very talented team and you have to give them credit but I thought we missed some opportunities.”

Junior Donta Scott was Maryland’s top scorer in the first half with 10 points, but he missed a 3-pointer and watched his layup attempt bounce off the rim before the break.

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Michigan jumped out to a 46-21 lead in the second half after Dickinson rifled the ball over a double team to Houstan for a 3-pointer with 18:30 left. Ayala, however, scored five straight points before Scott powered towards the paint for a layup to cut the deficit to 18 points.

“We have to do a much better job of when we’re going to double team, having active hands and not letting the pass come out so easy,” Manning said.

Ayala, who scored 20 points in the second half, drove to the rim for a layup and a three-point play to trim Michigan’s lead to 53-36 with 14:44 remaining.

“I mean, we lost by 20, so that’s my focus right now more so than myself,” Ayala said. “How much more I can give to help the team or what else I can do to help?”

The Terps, who shot 80% from the field early in the second half, continued their hot shooting, but it was too little, too late. Ayala backed down Michigan sophomore Terrence Williams II before knocking down a stepback jumper. Scott then drew a foul while scoring a layup, cutting the deficit to 57-41 with 12 minutes left. Scott finished with a season-high 19 points.

Reese’s 3-pointer, which made it a 13-point game with 11:12 to go, sounded Michigan’s alarm. Brooks tossed a lob in transition to Collins for an acrobatic tip-in before Dickinson scored another basket in the paint, extending the Wolverines’ lead to 61-44 with under 10 minutes remaining.

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With 4:18 remaining in the second half, Houstan buried a 3-pointer from the corner to give Michigan a 74-52 lead. Houstan finished the game with 16 points.

“They only ended up making eight threes, but it seemed like a lot more than that throughout the course of the ballgame,” Manning said.

As Ayala and Scott addressed the media, they were asked about the team’s inability to play consistent basketball for an entire 40 minutes. After shooting 30.4% in the first half, Maryland outscored the Wolverines 45-44 while converting 62.1% of their shot attempts in the second half.

Scott said getting the players to come together more during moments when the game is slipping away could be a way to combat the inconsistent stretches this team faces on a nightly basis.

“I feel like that will to focus in more and understand if we don’t change what we’re doing now then the game could get lost,” Scott said.

With Maryland sitting at 1-6 in conference play and KenPom projecting the team to finish with a 5-15 record against Big Ten foes, all the Terps can do is keep fighting, even if the season feels lost.

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“It’s all about fighting no matter what you do in life,” Scott said. “I’m trying to instill the fight in these guys because as long as we fight, it’s really hard to compete against us.”

NO. 17 ILLINOIS@MARYLAND

Friday, 7 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports 1

Radio: 105.7 FM


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