In front of 17,000 plus at a packed Wells Fargo Center, Maryland had quite an impressive first half, matching the physicality and the intensity of their Big East opponent. Maryland controlled just about every aspect of the half except for the boards which Nova dominated by a margin of 42-29.
After having a huge game just a few days earlier against No. 17 Louisville, Mouphtaou Yarou was shut down by Maryland big man Jordan Williams, and only logged around 4 minutes of first half action due to foul trouble. Speaking of Williams, Villanova had no answer for the outstanding sophomore in the first half. Williams tallied 16 points and 9 rebounds in the first half alone, in a dominating performance.
The Wildcats edged out a slight 6 point lead about 10 minutes into the first half, but in the next few minutes the Terrapins went on a run, highlighted by a ferocious and one dunk by forward Dino Gregory who added 6 first half points of his own.
After Williams knocked down two uncharacteristically deep jumpers, the Terrapins came within one. This set the stage for a huge transition three by Freshman PeShon Howard, which gave Maryland the momentum to carry a 36-33 lead into halftime.
This halftime lead was compliments of a mostly mistake-free half in which the Terps committed under 5 turnovers and shot around 66% from the line. In terms of scoring in the paint, Villanova had no answer for the phenom Jordan Williams, who in turn shut down Yarou.
This domination carried over into the beginning minutes of the second half as the young Terrapins played very collected, led by the poised play of Freshman guard Terrell Stoglin. At the 16:40 mark, Maryland held a 44-35 lead and forced a Villanova timeout.
The Wildcats quickly cut the lead down to 6, but Maryland answered back with a run of their own, regaining a 9 point lead at the 11:00 mark. The pleasant surprise of the second half for the Terps was the play of guard Adrian Bowie, who scored 8 points in a 10 minute stretch by slashing and driving hard to the rim.
Maryland gained its largest lead at the 9:10 mark, at which they held a 59-47 lead and the marquee win they so desperately crave looked within their reach. Yet, this was the beginning of the end for the Terrapins, who had surprised the capacity crowd up to this point.
After a series of bad turnovers and rushed play by the Maryland guards, Villanova was able to cut the lead to 59-54 in just over a minute. As the crowd got louder and louder, Coach Gary Williams gathered his players on the court for a timeout to hopefully calm them down and regain their focus.
Yet as they came out of the timeout it was more of the same, as the young guards continued to turn the ball over and finally the Wildcats tied the game at 59 with 6:00 remaining. This was as close as it would get as Villanova continued what turned out to be a 19-0 run which ended with a Jordan Williams layup at 2:13 to cut the Terrapins deficit to 5.
Maryland came within 3 points with 1:00 remaining, but a Malik Wayns 3 point dagger buried the young Terrapins and broke the hearts of the faithful. Wayns was the most consistent player for the Wildcats, tallying 10 in the first half and 12 in the second with only 2 turnovers. After a few fouls and missed shots, the Cats ended victorious by a score of 74-66.
With sharpshooter Cory Stokes struggling (9 points), Senior guard Corey Fisher really stepped up his game scoring 13 in the second half, 8 of which coming in that devastating 19-0 run by the Cats.
Neither team was great from point range: Maryland (2-11), Villanova (5-17), and Maryland again suffered from the charity strike, going 10-18 to Novas 15-20. Where Villanova really dominated the game was on the boards, as three Wildcat players were in double digits for rebounds compared to Marylands one (Williams – 14).
During the run by Villanova, Maryland got away from what had been so successful in the first half, working the half-court offense and pounding the ball into Williams. Instead the Terps guards got to caught up in the fast paced tempo of the much more experienced Villanova backcourt and proceeded to turn over the ball numerous times.
It was a tough loss to swallow for Maryland and its fans, one that certainly would have increased their NCAA tournament chances and one that they simply gave to the Wildcats. The Cats will continue their grueling schedule this Monday at No. 10 Connecticut, while the Terps have until Thursday to prepare for another tough foe in Virginia Tech.