Despite having an 11-point lead at halftime, Maryland men’s basketball dropped to 1-5 in Big Ten Conference play after a 70-59 loss to Rutgers Saturday afternoon.
From Maryland freshman Julian Reese’s first career start to the Terps’ second-half meltdown, here are three takeaways from one of the most disappointing losses this season at the Xfinity Center.
Freshman Julian Reese earns his first career start.
After Maryland used the same starting five for 16 consecutive games, interim coach Danny Manning decided the team needed a different look.
Reese made his first start of the season, while Wahab came off the bench. In Reese’s first collegiate start, the former St. Frances standout finished with nine points (2-for-7 from the floor) and seven rebounds in 25 minutes of play. Reese generated most of his offense from the free-throw line, going 5-for-6.
“[Reese] came out and did some really good things for us in regards to activity level,” Manning said. “He rebounded the ball, especially on the offensive end. He made his free throws.”
The change was needed at the center position. Wahab is averaging three points in the last four games and has looked outmatched in conference play. The Georgetown transfer, who finished with four points and four rebounds, has struggled on defense, constantly getting in foul trouble and looks one-dimensional on offense.
Even though Reese is young and still has room to grow, he has been more aggressive on the glass and has been a much better defender.
Manning said postgame that Reese had been practicing well recently, which led him to make the decision. He expects to flip-flop Reese and Wahab as the season continues.
Hakim Hart finds consistency for an inconsistent team.
In a season of inconsistent basketball, junior guard Hakim Hart has provided some form of stability as he scored 10 points, marking the 10th consecutive time he has scored double figures.
Hart got going early, scoring seven of Maryland’s 16 points during the opening minutes of the game. In the second half, Hart converted his only 3-point attempt of the game to give the Terps a 45-39 lead before everything fell apart in the final 13 minutes.
This season, Hart is averaging a career-best 10.2 points per game while shooting 53.9% from the floor and 84.8% from the free-throw line. He has stepped up defensively as well, averaging close to two steals per game. While Maryland has struggled to live up to preseason expectations, Hart, on the other hand, has exceeded them.
Defensive issues led to second-half meltdown.
The Terps’ key to a strong first half was their ability to get to the free-throw line — they went 13-for-15 — and generate 16 turnovers, which they turned into 18 points.
“That’s part of our formula to score the basketball,” Manning said. “We’re one of the better teams in the country at getting to the free-throw line. That’s been something that’s given us a chance to be successful as a team.”
Rutgers was able to stage a second-half turnaround not only because guard Ron Harper Jr. (31 points) was shooting like he was Steph Curry, but the Scarlet Knights cut down on the mistakes. They changed the script and committed five turnovers and limited the Terps to just four free-throw attempts.
Maryland had only one steal in the second half after getting seven in the first. The Terps’ transition offense had Rutgers out of rhythm defensively. But once they stopped getting out in transition, the Scarlet Knights were able to settle down on defense, limiting the Terps to 25% shooting.
“We were a little anxious,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “Just some uncharacteristic turnovers. Once we settled down and really executed, we didn’t have any issues.”
Tuesday, 7 p.m.
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