COLLEGE PARK — Maryland men’s basketball showed the rust caused by a one-week layoff for the holidays during its final nonconference game of the season.
Maryland could not buy a basket from beyond the arc, was lackadaisical on defense and simply could not shake a pesky UMBC squad. Every Terps run was answered by the Retrievers and it was a two-possession game just shy of the midway mark of the second half.
Suddenly, the Terps turned it up a notch on the defensive end — forcing multiple turnovers and blocking several shots at the rim in holding the visiting Retrievers scoreless for seven straight possessions.
That brief defensive stand helped the home team push the lead to double digits, 55-44, with 8:49 remaining and the Terps managed to keep the score in that range the rest of the way.
Graduate student point guard Jahmir Young was the spark plug all game, taking the ball strong to the basket and scoring 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting as Maryland gradually pulled away down the stretch to defeat UMBC, 80-64, at Xfinity Center on Thursday night.
First-year head coach Kevin Willard did not expect an easy time against the Retrievers, which is loaded with transfers and graduate students.
“That’s a good basketball team. It wasn’t going to be a blowout. They’re older guys who pass the ball and shoot the ball well,” Willard said.
Senior guard Hakim Hart totaled 16 points, six rebounds and two steals for Maryland, which has won all 15 meetings with UMBC. Graduate student guard Donald Carey caught fire in the second half and finished with 19 points on the strength of 5-for-7 3-point shooting for the Terps (10-3), who have won two straight on the heels of a three-game losing streak.
Carey was the only player who could connect from long range for Maryland, which went 6-for-24 from beyond the arc. The Georgetown transfer had been misfiring from deep, making just 6 of 35 3-point attempts over the previous seven games.
Carey said he gained confidence after making his first 3-point attempt from the deep corner in the first half. He had been working relentlessly in practice on perimeter shooting and said his approach never changed.
“The only difference was the shots were going in,” said Carey, who came off the bench for the second straight game. “I know the type of player I am and I know the type of work I put in. Eventually, the work will show.”
Carey tied his career-high with five 3-pointers and Willard acknowledged it was a welcome sight.
“If [Carey] can get going, it’s really going to open things up for Donte and Julian. It’s just going to spread the floor more,” said Willard, noting that Carey’s confidence never faltered. “He’s one of those guys that needs to see the ball go in. Once he saw it go in, his confidence came back a bit.”
Graduate student forward Jarvis Doles tied a season-high with 14 points for UMBC (9-5), which had a six-game winning streak snapped. Senior guard Craig Beaudion II also scored 14 points for the Retrievers, whose only loss of less than 10 points to the Terps came during the 1993-94 season.
“I thought our guys really fought and competed until about the last two minutes,” UMBC coach Jim Ferry said. “In the first half, I thought we did a really good job of dealing with their pressure, dealing with their athleticism. I thought in the second half they sped us up defensively and we turned the ball over too much.”
Senior forward Donta Scott narrowly missed a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds for Maryland, which resumes Big Ten play Sunday at Michigan. The Wolverines were upset by Central Michigan at home on Thursday night.
The Terps received good news beforehand as sophomore forward Julian Reese participated fully in pregame warmups and was declared ready for action after sitting out a win over Saint Peter’s with a shoulder injury. The 6-foot-9 St. Frances graduate did not start, but played 23 minutes and did not seem bothered by the shoulder in totaling seven points and seven rebounds.
Willard was pleased with the overall performance of Reese, who scored all seven of his points from the charity stripe. Reese went seven days without any basketball activity and practiced just twice before Thursday night’s game.
“Pretty good actually. I was happy with the minutes he was able to get,” Willard said when asked how he felt about Reese’s outing. “He’s only had two practices, so he’s going to be rusty. He couldn’t get into the flow of the game, but to play the minutes he did, … I was very happy with where he was.”
Reese was also pleased with his play after the week-long layoff. He initially hurt the right shoulder during the blowout loss to UCLA.
“I’m feeling good coming back, just feeling things out with the team. Just getting out there running and getting up and down, I started to feel more comfortable,” he said.
Reese was unable to finish around the basket on several opportunities and was not happy with missing five free throws. However, throwing the ball inside to the big man created space on the perimeter for the Terps.
“I feel like I changed the game a little by attacking the rim,” Reese said.
Hart and Young combined to score 21 points as Maryland took a 33-30 lead into halftime. Eight other players accounted for only 14 points for the Terps, who made just 1 of 14 3-point attempts in the first half.
Doles surpassed his season average in netting 14 points for UMBC, which used a 9-2 run to take its largest lead. He drained a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to put the Retrievers ahead 17-11 at the 12:33 mark.
Young provided the spark as Maryland responded with a 14-1 run in less than five minutes to move back ahead. The smooth left-hander hit a pull-up jumper in the lane, finished a driving layup and had an acrobatic offensive rebound — flying high to snag the ball and banking it in while still above the rim.
Hart had a thunderous breakaway dunk off a turnover and totaled five points during the run, which grew to 18-3 and gave Maryland a 29-20 advantage with 5:09 remaining. However, the home team let up the rest of the way and was outscored 10-3 over the final five minutes.
At halftime, Willard was not worried about the poor 3-point shooting, choosing to focus on defensive letdowns instead.
“We don’t talk about offense. We watched all our defensive clips against them,” Willard said of the halftime focus. “I was a little perturbed with the way we were playing defensively.”
Maryland opened the second half strong with Young beating his defender off the dribble for a layup before finishing a fastbreak to spark an early 6-0 run that pushed the lead to nine points with less than three minutes elapsed. However, the Retrievers would not go away and quickly reduced the deficit to 44-42 at the 13:18 mark.
It went back-and-forth for another three minutes before the Terps finally began to get some separation. Hart swished a 3-pointer from the wing to highlight a 7-0 run that enabled Maryland to move ahead by double digits for the first time.
UMBC got within single digits several times and Maryland did not feel entirely comfortable until Carey drained a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 71-56 with 2:36 to go.
Ferry credited Willard with changing the pace of the game by having the Terps push the ball in transition and force it inside in the half-court set. Maryland wound up making 22 of 32 free throws and the second-year UMBC coach said that was the difference.
“You just can’t overcome putting these guys on the line 32 times. They’re too big, too physical. I thought Kevin did a really good job of adjusting the pace and pounding it inside,” Ferry said. “We have to do a better job of playing without fouling. If had done so, I think we could have hung in there a little longer and given ourselves a chance to win.”
Freshman guard Dion Brown contributed 10 points for UMBC, which plays its America East Conference opener Sunday against defending champion Vermont.
“We have a really good group of guys. The maturity of this group and the way these guys have been unselfish and blended together to be a good team is the reason we’ve won nine nonleague games,” Ferry said. “I’m proud of what we’ve done, but I still don’t think we’ve reached what we can do. I thought we got better today even though we lost this game.”
Maryland at Michigan
Sunday, 4:30 p.m.
Radio: 105.7 FM
Vermont at UMBC
Sunday, 1 p.m.