COLLEGE PARK — After Maryland men’s basketball lost 67-61 to Northwestern on Sunday, it seemed as if the Terps’ three-game losing streak didn’t matter. As interim coach Danny Manning addressed another defeat, in which poor shooting and turnovers plagued the team yet again, he was still trying to wrap his head around the past 48 hours.
Former coach Mark Turgeon stepped down Friday, and Manning, who hasn’t been a head coach in 635 days, was tasked to guide a team with high expectations and a fan base that demands immediate results.
“It seems like a lot longer than 48 hours,” said Manning, who last coached at Wake Forest from 2014 to 2020. “That’s not in the coaching manual. It’s not, situations like that. We got the information, had the chance to visit with [Turgeon]. There were a lot of emotions and rightfully so.”
Between the announcement and Sunday afternoon, Manning’s main focus was to help the players digest a whirlwind of emotions that he expects to continue. Maryland practiced later Friday night then again Saturday, but Sunday proved to be yet another disappointment for a team that started the year ranked No. 21 in the country but has gone 5-4.
“We came back the next day and I thought we had a really good practice,” Manning said. “The energy level was good. Guys were spirited, and it was something where we felt like it was a good day for us.”
Senior guard Eric Ayala said the news of Turgeon’s departure felt similar to when he found out the NCAA Tournament in 2020 was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It had that feel to it ... that shock,” Ayala said. “We are still trying to get through it and we got to keep fighting.”
After Turgeon broke the news to the players, they wanted to create an environment where they put their emotions to the side to honor Turgeon.
Even without the man who led the program to 226 wins, the traditions remained the same. Maryland circled together during pregame to vibe out to the Waka Flocka Flame song “Grove St. Party,” while the state flag dropped from the student section in the second half.
But another thing that remained the same was Maryland’s shooting woes and inability to control the ball. Even though Maryland made 10 3-pointers after going 1-for-13 against Virginia Tech, the Terps shot 28.8% from the field Sunday. Meanwhile, the Terps committed 14 turnovers. Ayala had six alone.
Junior guard Hakim Hart’s 18-point performance couldn’t hide the poor shooting display from Maryland’s key contributors. Graduate transfer guard Fatts Russell had 11 points but made only three of his 12 shots. Ayala had one of his worst games of the season, scoring 11 points on 2-for-11 shooting, and his now 3-for-20 from the field in the past two games.
Russell made a pair of 3-pointers in the second half, but the majority of the afternoon featured him forcing contested shots.
Junior center Qudus Wahab had a hard time fighting off double teams throughout the afternoon, as he finished with seven points and made just one shot on seven attempts to go with four rebounds. Meanwhile, junior Donta Scott tallied nine points on 2-for-11 shooting.
Freshman forward Julian Reese was held to two points on 1-for-6 shooting as the Terps were outscored in the paint by a significant 32-12 margin.
“We have to do a better job as a team in terms of where we get our scoring opportunities,” Manning said. “I’m a big believer in paint touches. A big believer in ball reversal. I thought paint touches led us to 22 free-throw attempts. We want that to be part of our formula for scoring points.”
With 14 minutes remaining in the half, Xfinity Center fell quiet when, moments after checking into the game, sophomore guard Ian Martinez hit the floor hard. Martinez was checked out by trainers before getting up and being helped off the court by fellow teammates. Martinez was evaluated for a head injury and did not return.
Martinez would later return to the bench with a couple of bandages on his head.
“I’m not a doctor, but when I went out there, he was out of it,” Manning said. “Once we get the word on what the doctors said, we’ll go from there.”
Northwestern capped off the first half by going on a 6-0 run. Guard Boo Buie lobbed the ball to forward Pete Nance for a rim-shaking slam-dunk that gave the Wildcats a 30-27 lead at halftime. Buie scored 16 points while Nance had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
After scoring 11 points in the first half, Hart scored five quick points to help Maryland take a two-point lead. From that point on, however, Hart was silenced, and so was Maryland.
The Terps’ offense missed 10 consecutive shot attempts while Northwestern took a 47-39 lead.
Ayala converted a jumper from outside to cut the deficit to 53-49 with 6:10 remaining. Moments later, Russell nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut Northwestern’s lead to 55-54.
But Nance sucked the life out of the Terps with less than three minutes to go. He converted a layup after grabbing an offensive board and after contesting Reese’s shot attempt, Nance went down to the other end and made a mid-range jumper that extended the Wildcats’ advantage to 61-54.
Ayala’s biggest turnover came during the final minutes when Northwestern guard Chase Audige stole the ball then raced towards the basket for an easy layup to put the Wildcats up by nine.
“All the games that we lost, we gave the lead away,” Ayala said. “Even today, we went up a little bit. We had a little run. Then three to four minutes left, we’re down three. We just got locked in on certain possessions and just figured it out. We are still all new. We’re definitely close. It’s right there.”
During the 36 minutes Ayala was on the floor, he didn’t think about not having the coach that believed in him since he was a freshman. For Ayala, it’s basketball at the end of the day no matter who is on the sideline. When he first felt Turgeon’s absence was during that first practice after the announcement.
Even though the Terps are dealing with a lot, Ayala is fully aware that opponents will not feel sorry for them, and it showed against the Wildcats.
“Nobody is going to have sympathy for us,” he said. “Nobody won’t care that we just lost a coach and somebody who meant a lot to our program. Northwestern didn’t look at us any different. They came out there and tried to beat us.”
Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational
MARYLAND VS. FLORIDA
Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Sunday, 4:30 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network Radio: 105.7 FM