ANN ARBOR, MICH. — As difficult as it is to simulate the offense of a player such as Purdue’s Carsen Edwards in practice, it is probably tougher to get a true gauge on the kind of defense Michigan employs as a team.
Four days after figuring out how to stop the Big Ten’s leading scorer in the second half of Tuesday’s home win over the No. 12 Boilermakers, Maryland didn’t have the same success on the road Saturday against the No. 6 Wolverines.
Trailing by as many as 15 points midway through the first half and scoring just 18 points in the first 20 minutes — the same amount they surrendered to Purdue in the second half Tuesday — the No. 24 Terps closed to within three before losing, 65-52, at Crisler Center.
As much resolve as the Terps (19-7, 10-5 Big Ten) showed in the second half, their first-half performance was one of their worst of the season. Maryland shot 7-for-24 from the field and committed 13 turnovers. Late in the first half, the Terps had more turnovers (11) than points (10).
In the half, three of their top four scorers — junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr., sophomore center Bruno Fernando and freshman guard Eric Ayala — were a combined 1-for-11, the lone basket coming from Cowan.
Freshman wing Aaron Wiggins, whose two 3-pointers late in the first half helped cut the deficit to single digits, led Maryland with 15 points off the bench, tying his career high. Fernando finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, ending his streak of seven straight double doubles.
The Wolverines (23-3, 12-3), who were coming off a shocking 75-69 loss at Penn State when coach John Beilein was ejected at halftime, were led by senior guard Charles Matthews, who scored 14 points, and freshman guard Ignas Brazdeikis, who added 13. The victory was Michigan’s 16th straight without a loss at home this season.
A 3-pointer by freshman guard Serrel Smith Jr. pulled Maryland, which trailed 27-18 at halftime, to within 42-39, with a little over 10 minutes left. The Terps then had a chance to draw even after Michigan center Jon Teske missed a 3-pointer.
But Cowan missed a corner 3-pointer and Michigan sophomore guard Jordan Poole scored on a breakout drive over Jalen Smith. A subsequent 3-pointer by junior guard Zavier Simpson pushed the lead back to eight on the way back into double digits.
Maryland looked like two different teams. The Terps were completely lost in the first half, and could have been down even more if the Wolverines had hit their 3s. The second half showed how efficient Maryland’s offense can be, but when the Terps had a chance to make it a game down to the wire, they failed to execute. Give some credit to Michigan’s defense, but Maryland couldn’t quite get over what had been a pretty sizable hump.