Dec. 5 marked a new week, a new game and a new beginning for the Maryland men’s basketball team. The Terps had suffered back-to-back losses and lost their head coach in the previous eight days. With such commotion, Maryland fans looked forward to seeing how the team would respond.
The Terps came out with a high energy level, with early baskets coming from junior guard Hakim Hart and junior forward Donta Scott for their first eight points. Hopes remained high for both players and fans that the team would end its two-game losing streak.
But history repeated itself, with Maryland (5-4 overall, 0-1 Big Ten) struggling in familiar ways. The team trailed at the end of the first half (30-27) and was plagued by several turnovers and fouls toward the end of the second half, allowing the Wildcats to extend their lead.
The Terps could not find a way to bounce back, suffered its third consecutive loss and lost its first conference matchup of the season. Northwestern defeated Maryland, 67-61, on Dec. 5 at Xfinity Center.
“We didn’t play well enough,” Maryland interim head coach Danny Manning said. “We shared this with our young men. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. We have to figure out a way when we get out there.”
Here is what to know from the Terps’ home loss.
1. This was Danny Manning’s first game as head coach.
Sunday’s matchup marked previous assistant coach Danny Manning’s first game as interim head coach. On Dec. 3, Maryland announced that the school and former head coach Mark Turgeon had mutually agreed to part ways.
“I hope Coach Turgeon is being celebrated for what he did here. For 10 years, I’ve competed against that guy, a couple at Duke when I was an assistant, eight years in the Big Ten,” Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said. “I can tell you trying to prepare to play against his teams, the kind of players he had here, the winning, the way he did it, the kind of person he is … he’s a good basketball coach and a good man.”
Turgeon’s departure came one day after freshman James Graham III announced his plans to transfer from Maryland and after having suffered back-to-back losses. In the past month, the Terps had compiled a 5-3 record, with the losses coming to George Mason (Nov. 17), Louisville (Nov. 27) and Virginia Tech (Dec. 1).
Senior guard Eric Ayala said the situation was tough for him and credited Turgeon for the person he is today. He compared Turgeon’s exit to when he found out the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled.
“It had that feel to it, that shock,” Ayala said. “We are still trying to get through it, and we’ve got to keep fighting.”
The Terps now look to Manning to quickly turn things around. Turgeon hired Manning as an assistant coach April. The two played together at Kansas from 1984-1987.
Manning comes with an array of basketball experience, most recently serving as an analyst for ESPN. Before that, Manning served as the head coach of Wake Forest for six seasons (2014-2020) and two years as Tulsa’s head coach (2012-2014). He said he came to Maryland because of Turgeon.
“I can’t speak for him, but I know that our team will continue to follow the direction that his leadership provided for so many years,” Manning said. “I didn’t expect to be in this position, but I’m ready to take on responsibility with helping with this team.”
2. The shooting woes continued, this time from 2-point range.
The Terps’ 3-point shooting woes have been a recurring theme all season. Entering the matchup against Northwestern, the Terps were shooting 26.8 percent on shots taken from behind the arc, averaging 5.5 threes per game.
Maryland shot 1-for-13 from deep during the Dec. 1 matchup against Virginia Tech. The Terps did improve in that area against Northwestern, finishing the game 10-for-23 from behind the arc.
Maryland shot 5-for-12 from three throughout the first half. Three of the baskets came from Hart. The Terrapins’ first basket of the day was a 3-pointer from Hart.
But 3-point shots worked against the Terrapins as well. Northwestern finished the first half having gone 3-for-10 deep, but two consecutive 3-pointers gave the Wildcats a 16-10 lead with a little more than 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
However, shooting woes now go beyond the 3-point shots. Maryland shot 28.8 percent from the field and 19.4 percent from 2-point range. Ayala shot 2-for-12 from the field; Scott, 2-for-11, and Wahab, 1-for-5.
“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.”
Ayala is confident his team can turn it around.
“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.”
3. The bench stayed quiet.
Aside from freshman center Julian Reese, the Terps’ bench has not contributed much these past few games. Entering Sunday’s game, the trio of graduate guard Xavier Green, sophomore guard Ian Martinez and Reese had posted 21 points in the past two games. Reese was responsible for 14 of those points.
The group needed to bounce back but was still unable to do so.
Ian Martinez (head) got hurt immediately after entering the game. Green finished the game with no points. Reese tallied four rebounds.
Manning also chose to play sophomore Marcus Dockery, who had not played since the season-opener against Quinnipiac, after Martinez went down. Dockery finished the game with two points.
“He’s really worked hard to improve and put himself in a situation where he’s been practicing really well,” Manning said of Dockery. “The thought process was to go into the game and give him some minutes. Obviously, with Ian going down, those minutes got extended a little bit. I do think Dock came in and gave us a really good nine minutes from not playing.”
4. Hakim Hart excelled early.
The Philadelphia native came out firing Dec. 5. He notched his first basket of the game 40 seconds in. A shot from behind the arc gave a struggling Terrapin team some much-needed energy.
That energy only continued for Hart, as he finished the first half with three 3-pointers. But Hart’s solid level of play went beyond his outside shot. Hart shot 4-for-6 from the field and posted five rebounds in the first half. He made a second-chance layup off of a turnover in the first two minutes of the game that gave the Terrapins a 5-2 advantage against the Wildcats early on.
Hart had another memorable play toward the middle of the first half as he produced another 3-point shot after a Northwestern turnover. The basket put the Terps within three points of the Wildcats (16-13).
“Just continue to stay consistent and make plays on defense,” Hart said of his performance and what he wants to see from himself moving forward.
But he was quiet in the second half. Hart made a layup and 3-pointer not even two minutes into the half, but he would not score again until the final five seconds of the game. Hart finished the game with a team-high 18 points.
“He shot the ball well, and we had a lot of guys who didn’t shoot it well and a lot of guys get to the free-throw line,” Manning said. “Across the board, those are things we have to continue to work on. Hakim, offensively, he gave us a chance to be in the ballgame.”
5. Ian Martinez went down with an injury.
Shortly after checking into the game, sophomore guard Ian Martinez hit the floor. Martinez was soon helped off the court and did not return to the game. He was evaluated for a head injury, per a team spokesperson.
The Utah transfer has contributed to a Terrapin team that struggles to receive contributions from the bench. Martinez has tallied 37 points and nine steals on the young season.
Martinez returned to Maryland’s bench in the second half with a forehead covered in Band-Aids. Manning said the team would follow the necessary protocols to give Martinez a chance at a speedy recovery.
“We need him. We need him to come back,” Manning said. “He’s a dynamic young man, and he’ll be back as soon as he can.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics