COLLEGE PARK — The inexperience and potential of the No. 24 Maryland men’s basketball team was on full display Wednesday night against No. 4 Virginia in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. So was the experience and toughness of the Cavaliers.
Playing before the season’s first announced sellout crowd at Xfinity Center, the young Terps fell behind by nine points at halftime and by 17 in the second half. They seemed impatient and a bit overmatched in the big-game setting against a highly ranked opponent.
Making a spirited comeback — helped by some foul trouble for Virginia — No. 24 Maryland cut its deficit to four before losing, 76-71. The difference in the game proved to be turnovers: 14 by the Terps to only two by the Cavaliers, with both coming on offensive fouls.
“We lost to a great team tonight that played at a high level,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “Only two turnovers against us in this building. They shot a great percentage from 3 [45.5 percent on 10-for-22]. They made a lot of tough shots.
“We’ll learn from this. We know we missed some timely boxouts in the second half. But we never quit, and that’s a good sign for us moving forward. We shot 54 percent against a Virginia team that can flat out guard you. We outrebounded them [35-23]. Just comes down to turnovers, really and 50-50 balls in the first half.”
Junior guard Kyle Guy led Virginia (7-0) with 18 points, including 15 in the first half, while shooting 5-for-9 on 3-pointers (4-for-7 in the first half). Junior guard Ty Jerome finished with 17 points and redshirt freshman forward De’Andre Hunter scored 15.
“[Guy] and Jerome, they’re some confident guys,” Terps freshman guard Eric Ayala said. “It’s not really a shot they they don’t like and their coach [Tony Bennett] trusts them to make plays. A lot of respect to those guys and the work they put in. They’re a No. 4 team in the country for a reason.”
After a slow start, junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. led Maryland (6-1) with 15 points. Sophomore center Bruno Fernando finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Freshmen Aaron Wiggins and Ayala each scored 13.
The loss was Maryland’s first of the season and fifth straight in the ACC-Big Challenge.
Still, Turgeon can take some positives out of it going into Saturday’s Big Ten opener at home against Penn State.
Don Markus, reporter: The difference between Maryland and Virginia was easy to see. As easy as one, two, three. Given the disparity in 3-point shooting for much of the game, it was surprising that the result was as close as it was.
Coming in shooting 40 percent as a team, the Cavaliers only improved, hitting eight of 15 3-point attempts in the first half and 10 of 22 overall. The Terps were 1-for-6 in the first half and didn’t start hitting 3s until they were down 17, finishing 7-for-17.
Peter Schmuck, columnist: If the Terps had been able to defend the 3-point arc, they would be celebrating a very big victory, but the Cavaliers dominated the perimeter at both ends of the court and held off a late comeback bid.
The good news for the young Terps is that they showed they could play on a big stage against a highly ranked opponent and had the resilience to make a game of it in the final minutes despite an uneven performance by leading scorer Anthony Cowan Jr.
The Cavaliers’ stifling perimeter defense was as good as advertised, holding the Terps to just one successful 3-point shot in the first half. Maryland also struggled at the free-throw line early on and could not exploit an early advantage in free-throw attempts.