After falling to Louisville Nov. 27, the Maryland men’s basketball team desperately needed to bounce back.
But the Terps did not find a way to recover, and they fell 62-58 to Virginia Tech on Wednesday, Dec. 1, at Xfinity Center.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed. This was a special night,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said following the loss. “We wanted to win for [Len Bias], we wanted to play great for him, and we weren’t able to do it.”
Junior center Qudus Wahab finished with a team-high 18 points. He shot 7-for-8 from the field and posted seven rebounds. Turgeon praised the Georgetown transfer’s play and noted that Maryland’s offense was much stronger with Wahab in the game.
But that was not enough.
The Terps trailed again at the half (31-29) and let a seven-point lead slip away in the second half. On a night that fans expected a strong performance out of Maryland, inconsistencies and struggles shined brightly.
Junior guard Hakim Hart had the chance to tie the game from behind the arc with 15 seconds remaining. And as Terrapin fans rose from their seats and roars filled the arena, Hart did not manage to do so.
“He thought he was open. He shot it. It is what it is,” Turgeon said.
And the Maryland fans who had cheered all game enthusiastically began to exit the arena. Minutes later, Terrapin players and coaches left the court as boos rained down on them.
Here are five pivotal numbers from the matchup.
Struggles with shots from behind the arc should not come as a surprise for Terrapin fans. Deep shots have plagued Maryland throughout the young season, and the team does not seem to be getting any better.
And the performance Dec. 1 only exacerbated the concern, as the Terps shot 1-for-13 (7.7 percent) from 3-point range against Virginia Tech.
Maryland shot 1-for-8 from behind the arc in the first half. The lone 3-pointer came from junior forward Donta Scott nearly 45 seconds into the game. Despite five more attempts in the second half, the Terps would not make another 3-pointer.
Deep shots from Virginia Tech did not work in the Terps’ favor, either. Late 3-pointers from Nahiem Alleyne (with 5:54 left) and Hunter Cattoor (with 5:20 and 2:55 left) helped the Hokies build their lead against the home team.
“They made big shots, so [we] have to give credit to them for knocking [them] down,” Scott said.
Maryland continues to trail behind its opponents at halftime and struggles immensely to build substantial leads throughout the game. Better 3-point shooting would likely make a tremendous difference as the season moves along, especially as the team heads into conference play against ranked opponents.
“We want to take good shots. We want to keep taking good shots. We’re not completely there yet,” Turgeon said “… We’ll just keep working on it. Let’s keep working on it, and hopefully figure out how to make a few.”
Maryland has proven throughout the young season that it can get contributions outside of the starting five of senior guard Eric Ayala, graduate guard Fatts Russell, junior guard Hakim Hart, junior forward Donta Scott and junior center Qudus Wahab. Graduate guard Xavier Green, sophomore guard Ian Martinez and freshman center Julian Reese have shown they can contribute offensively and defensively.
However, during the Terrapins’ Nov. 27 loss against Louisville, Green, Martinez and Reese combined to post just 12 points. Reese was responsible for seven of them. The group combined for nine points against Virginia Tech, and Reese was responsible for seven of those points. Reese had a dunk with 12 minutes left that gave the Terps a seven-point lead.
Despite the offensive struggles of the group, Reese did finish the night with a team-high eight rebounds. His tenacious play impressed Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young.
“The young man is going to be a heck of a player here,” Young said. “We had a hard time with him flooring it.”
This group will need to find some consistency for a Maryland team that rarely subs in anyone else aside from Green, Martinez and Reese.
Entering play Dec. 1, Ayala was leading the team in scoring at 15.1 points per game. The Wilmington, Del., native’s presence has been evident throughout the court in each game with his speed, aggression, skill and leadership. If he was not the one taking the shot, he was setting his teammates up for baskets.
But that presence did not exist against the Hokies. Ayala finished the night with two points. He shot 1-for-9 from the field and 0-for-3 deep.
“I’ve got to do a better job with [Ayala]. They did a really good job of guarding him,” Turgeon said. “He can usually get downhill, and he couldn’t get downhill, he couldn’t get by his guy, he couldn’t spin off his guy.”
Young credited his team for containing Ayala.
“Ayala, who I just think is a really, really good basketball player, and to limit him to two first-half points, probably as much as anything got us out of here with a big win,” Young said.
For a Maryland team that had anticipated a much-needed bounce-back, the turnovers did not help.
The Terps finished the first half with nine turnovers, two of which came from junior forward Hakim Hart. Maryland’s mistakes allowed the Hokies to capitalize on the offensive end. For example, a turnover by Hart allowed Virginia Tech guard Nahiem Alleyne to quickly find Keve Aluma four minutes into the first half. Aluma converted a 3-point shot and tied the game at eight.
And it only continued in the second half. Ayala had a pair of turnovers, and Russell had a costly turnover as well.
The Terps finished the game with 15 turnovers compared to Virginia Tech’s eight.
“Fifteen turnovers against a team that doesn’t pressure,” Turgeon said. “We had three on the [fast break] in the second half. We didn’t make great decisions all the time.”
Maryland hosts Northwestern Dec. 5 in its first conference matchup of the season, and Turgeon wants to see his team exit this rough patch.
“We’ve got to figure this out. We’re better,” Turgeon said. “We’re all frustrated because our standard here is high at Maryland, and the expectations were high coming into this season.”
Gold replica No. 34 Len Bias jerseys packed Xfinity Center Dec. 1. Maryland honored Bias, who was posthumously inducted into the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame last month, throughout the game. The Terp legend died two days after the Boston Celtics drafted him with the No. 2 pick of the 1986 NBA Draft.
The sea of gold brought tears to the Bias family. Bias’ father, James, took notice of the students cheering enthusiastically in the stands while wearing their Bias jerseys, as did his mother, Lonise.
“To see the sea of jerseys, No. 34, and people clapping,” Lonise said. “It’s like, as I have said over and over again, our ashes that we had have been turned into beauty.”
Bias tallied 2,146 points, 745 rebounds, 87 blocks and 84 steals as a Terp. The Maryland native was recognized as the ACC Player of the Year during his junior and senior seasons and finished his career as Maryland’s all-time leading scorer. (He is now third behind Juan Dixon and Greivis Vasquez.)
The Bias family believes others can learn from their son’s legacy.
“I’m a firm believer that Len was a seed that went down into the ground to bring forward to life, and as I said before, we are celebrating,” Lonise said. “You have no control over the date you’re born or the day you die, only the dash that’s in between, and the dash is his life. And that’s what we’re celebrating today.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics