Unlike its first two losses, Maryland men’s basketball’s game at Villanova was barely competitive.
The Terps trailed by eight points in the first three minutes, 11 less than two minutes later and 20 just shortly after the midpoint of the first half en route to a 57-40 drubbing by the No. 21 Wildcats on Friday night at Finneran Pavilion in Philadelphia.
After opening the season with a 68-53 victory against Mount St. Mary’s at Xfinity Center, Maryland lost to Davidson (64-61 on Friday) and UAB (66-63 on Sunday). But in those setbacks, the team’s largest deficit to the Wildcats was nine and to the Blazers was 12.
The Terps’ scoring output was their lowest since March 5, 1982, when that squad lost, 40-28, to North Carolina State. They also dropped to 1-3 for the first time since 2000.
Meanwhile, Villanova bounced back from a surprising 76-72 loss to Penn on Monday and avoided what would have been its second 2-2 start in as many seasons. The Wildcats also extended their winning streak against Maryland to five in a row.
Here are three observations from Friday night’s loss.
Maryland’s offense was MIA
An offense that entered the game ranked 318th out of 351 NCAA Division I teams in scoring at 64 points per game was practically nonexistent Friday night.
The Terps didn’t score their first point until 3:05 had passed when junior power forward Julian Reese, a Baltimore native and St. Frances graduate, dropped in a layup. In the first half, they were mired in additional droughts of 2:21, 2:24, 4:04 and then 3:30 until halftime.
The offense shot only 24% (12 of 50) against Villanova. The efficiency was even worse behind the 3-point line at just 19.2% (5 of 26).
Maryland’s futility was especially pronounced in the first half when it went stretches of 4:08, 6:23 and 4:00 without a field goal. By halftime, the Terps had as many turnovers (four) as field goals and did not hit back-to-back shots until past the midpoint of the second half.
“They jumped us from the start,” coach Kevin Willard said. “We came out and missed a couple shots and kind of got down on ourselves. They hit two big 3s to start the game, got the crowd into it, and our older guys just aren’t playing the way we need them to play right now, and that’s something that I have great confidence that they’ll get there. It’s just early in the season where we’re not playing very well as a unit.”
Friday’s outing continued what has become a troubling early trend for Maryland. In the first two losses, the Terps shot 35.1% (20 of 57) against Davidson and 38.6% (22 of 57) against UAB while going a combined 11-for-46 (23.9%) from 3-point range.
The Terps’ inability to deliver meaningful production outside the paint has opened the door for opposing defenses to crowd the lane and limit the 6-foot-9, 230-pound Reese, who scored a team-high 10 points Friday but missed 6 of 8 shots. He finished with only five points, four rebounds and two blocks in more than 27 minutes before fouling out against UAB.
Until Maryland figures out how to get its perimeter shooters on track, opponents have a playbook for containing the offense.
Now the defense is beginning to show cracks
At least in the setbacks to Davidson and UAB, the Terps could say they defended decently. Not so against Villanova.
The Wildcats converted 45% of their attempts (18 of 40) and 38.9% of their 3-point shots (7 of 18), which was on par to what Maryland had surrendered in its first three games. But in the first half, Villanova connected on 61.9% (13 of 21) from the field and 54.5% (6 of 11) from long range en route to sprinting to a 39-15 advantage at the break.
The 3-point prowess opened up the middle for Villanova, which outscored Maryland, 22-10, in the paint. Many of the Wildcats’ points in the lane came courtesy of dribble-drives and cuts to the basket for easy layups.
Unfortunately, the defensive lapses can sometimes be traced back to an offense that can’t score, which would give the team time to set up and avoid fastbreak chances.
“We’re really struggling offensively,” Willard said. “The ball’s not moving side-to-side enough. We’re taking a lot of 3s, which I’m all for shooting the basketball, but I think we’re taking a lot of 3s at times when we can drive the basketball and try to attack the paint.”
Defense was a fundamental element of last year’s success under Willard. The Terps might need another lesson in that department.
The freshmen are regressing
Maryland’s first top-20 recruiting class in the past five years combined for 17 points and six rebounds in that win against Mount St. Mary’s. It’s been downhill ever since.
In the past three games, the freshmen have totaled 30 points and 17 rebounds for an average of 10.0 points and 5.7 rebounds, respectively. Shooting guard DeShawn Harris-Smith has alternated solid performances (12 points, four rebounds and two steals against Mount. St. Mary’s; 13 points, six rebounds and two assists against UAB) with rookie showings (eight points, five rebounds and two steals against Davidson; two points, two rebounds and two assists against Villanova).
Small forward Jamie Kaiser Jr. earned the first start of his career Friday but finished with zero points on 0-for-4 shooting (all from 3-point range) and three fouls. Shooting guard Jahnathan Lamothe, a Baltimore native and St. Frances graduate, had zero points on 0-for-2 shooting, three steals and two rebounds in 13 minutes.
It might be too much to expect the freshmen to contribute heavily on a consistent basis. But considering how poorly the Terps have played thus far, it’s beginning to look like an all-hands-on-deck situation.
UMBC at Maryland
Tuesday, 7 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 105.7 FM