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Terps

Maryland men’s basketball’s struggles continue in 64-50 loss to Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Maryland men’s basketball hung around until it couldn’t any longer.

After weathering a scoring drought that lasted more than eight minutes against the Scarlet Knights’ relentless defense, the Terps surprisingly pulled within four, 31-27, with 15:14 remaining. Despite committing nine turnovers, shooting 6-for-24 from the field and scoring 17 points in the first half, Maryland had hope of completing an improbable comeback.

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Then, the intensity rose inside of Jersey Mike’s Arena, and the Terps couldn’t handle the pressure. Rutgers went on a 20-6 run to take a commanding lead on the way to a 64-50 victory over Maryland, which has lost five straight to Power Five conference opponents and won just two of its past seven games after starting the season 8-0 under first-year coach Kevin Willard.

In their first game after suffering an 81-46 loss to Michigan on New Year’s Day, the Terps once again struggled offensively. They found their shooting touch in the second half, but it was too little, too late as Rutgers shot 45.1% from the field to extinguish any hope of a comeback. Jahmir Young scored 13 points and Don Carey added 12 off the bench for Maryland, which shot 13-for-22 in the second half. Seniors Hakim Hart and Donta Scott combined for eight points on 4-for-13 shooting while freshman Noah Batchelor failed to record a point in his first career start.

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“[Rutgers] is long and athletic,” Young said. “They were in the passing lanes and we had a hard time taking care of the ball. They are a great defensive team.”

Willard said he started Batchelor to allow Carey to play more freely. Although the plan was still to give Carey his normal minutes, Willard thought having the Georgetown transfer come off the bench would take the pressure off of him.

The plan seemed to work, as Carey went 4-for-8 from 3-point range after struggling from beyond the arc for much of the season. He said he enjoys coming off the bench because it gives him a chance to get a feel for the game.

“You can see the atmosphere and where the energy needs to go on the court,” Carey said.

Maryland forward Julian Reese, left, has his shot blocked by Rutgers center Clifford Omoruyi during the first half of Thursday night's game in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Sophomore forward Julian Reese got off to a strong start, but his offensive foul with 13:42 left and flagrant foul with 12:27 to go helped spark Rutgers’ game-winning surge. He scored eight points on 4-for-5 shooting and added six rebounds while committing five turnovers and four fouls.

“The turnover was big, the flagrant wasn’t huge,” Willard said, referring to Rutgers guard Paul Mulcahy’s steal before the foul. “I loved the fact [Reese] chased him down. I thought that’s the best Julian’s looked in a long time.”

Rutgers was led by Mulcahy, who finished with 15 points — including 13 in the second half — on 6-for-6 shooting. Former Loyola Maryland and Boys’ Latin standout Cam Spencer added 13 points and five assists after making the game-winning 3-pointer in the Scarlet Knights’ upset win over No. 1 Purdue on Monday.

Maryland (10-5, 1-3 Big Ten) struggled to take care of the ball the entire night, committing 20 turnovers. The Terps had three players commit three or more turnovers, as the combination of mental errors and the Scarlet Knights’ suffocating defense led to the influx of mistakes. With Maryland trailing by 13 points, Hart watched the ball get stolen by Rutgers’ Mawot Mag, who raced down the floor for a layup. Seconds later, Hart turned the ball over again before forward Aundre Hyatt nailed a 3-pointer to give the Scarlet Knights a 51-33 advantage with 9:13 left in the game.

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Rutgers (11-4, 3-1 Big Ten) finished with 11 steals, including three from Spencer.

“I try to keep the same mentality for every game — not too high, not too low,” Spencer said. “Sometimes after a loss you might be down, but if you stay level-headed even after a big win or some losses, that’s really key for success going forward.”

Maryland guard Jahmir Young (1) drives past Rutgers guard Cam Spencer, right, during the first half of Thursday night's game in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Thanks to a deep 3-pointer by junior guard Jahari Long with 1:08 to play, Maryland avoided scoring less than 50 points in consecutive games for the first time since late in the 1981-82 season.

The Terps were a mess offensively, and facing one of the nation’s best defenses didn’t help. In the first half, the Scarlet Knights went on an 15-0 run while holding the Terps scoreless for more than eight minutes. Rutgers forced five turnovers, including a pair of shot clock violations, during that stretch.

With Maryland in need of a spark, forward Patrick Emilen’s layup was blocked by Hyatt before guard Derek Simpson threw down a one-handed dunk that extended the Scarlet Knights’ lead to 15-4 with 10:14 to go in the first half.

“They’re good offensive players, but this is the first time they’ve gone through this,” Willard said. “We’ve had three tough games on the road. I have the utmost confidence in these guys. We will get it going offensively again.”

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Despite the Terps’ offense falling apart, they fought to stay in the game. Junior guard Ian Martinez made a pair of 3-pointers before Hart delivered a one-handed dunk in transition to trim the deficit to seven points. Even when Rutgers pushed the lead back to double digits, Maryland hung in, as Martinez and Carey traded 3-pointers to trim the lead to 19-14 with 1:33 left in the half. The Scarlet Knights responded by scoring five unanswered points before Carey’s 3-pointer in the final seconds cut the deficit to 24-17 at halftime.

Willard previously called Rutgers the most connected defensive team he has seen in a long time. He doesn’t consider the Scarlet Knights to be a good half-court offensive team, but their full-court pressure allows them to score in transition. Rutgers outscored Maryland 18-2 in fast-break points.

“The press, especially in this building, gives them an opportunity to get easy transition points,” Willard said. “The press has changed them from a half-court team you knew what was coming at you to a special preparation team.”

No. 24 Ohio State at Maryland

Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: ESPN

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Radio: 105.7 FM


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