Maryland on the Defensive After Loss to No. 7

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- No. 21 Maryland fell to No. 7 Virginia Dec. 3 at the Xfinity Center, 76-65.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Virginia coach Tony Bennett watched Maryland and he saw something familiar. No, not just the Cavaliers’ old ACC rival in the Terrapins’ first time on the other side of ACC/Big Ten Challenge during Virginia’s 76-65 victory but a little déjà vu of where his 7th-ranked team was a while back.

“Watching them, they play together well,” said Bennett of the Terrapins. “They had a lot of talent last year and the talent this year is younger but they look like they’re more cohesive, watching them in the (CBE) Tournament. And those young guys are only going to get better and better.”

Bennett also acknowledged Maryland (7-1) wasn’t the same without Dez Wells and Evan Smotrcyz, both out with injuries, and he didn’t really get around to talking too much about the buzzsaw defense the young Terps were up against. Virginia (8-0) limited Maryland to 40 percent shooting (16-of-40), just three offensive rebounds in mashing Maryland 34-22 on the glass, and never surrendered the lead after scoring first.

None of those issues covered what a grumpy bunch of Terrapins thought was the real key to Maryland dropping the big battle of the unbeatens. “The difference tonight was our defense not being where it needed to be,” said junior Terrapin forward Jake Layman. “We’re much better defensively than what we showed tonight, and that’s going to be our emphasis the next couple of days. We’re a good enough defensive team to rely on it when we get down 10 points, even against a team like Virginia that’s very efficient."

Not on this night. Virginia shot 53.1 percent, controlled the tempo the entire game and beat the No. 21 Terrapins for the seventh time in the last eight meetings.

“I thought Virginia was terrific from beginning to end,” said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. “I thought their defense was what Virginia is about. They came into this game struggling offensively and we gave them too many layups.”

Turgeon said his bench charted 18 layups among the Cavaliers’ 26 baskets. Virginia did outscore Maryland in the paint 36-20, and at times the bigger, stronger Cavaliers looked like men playing against boys under the bucket.

“Our defense wasn’t good enough to beat a team like Virginia,” Turgeon said.

While disappointed, Turgeon’s team seemed unbowed, and maybe with more resolve to improve that defense to take the next step as a unit.

“It wasn’t a blow out and we didn’t have a couple of key guys, no excuses,” said freshman Dion Wiley, who had 12 points off the bench. “I think if we would have had them we would have won.”

Wiley had his first back-to-back double-figure scoring games but his focus was on the other end, too. “Coach Turgeon really emphasizes getting through screens for me,” said Wiley. “We have to defend better. We have to defend the whole game and we have to play better transition defense.”

The Terrapins were playing without leading scorer Wells, the broken wrist likely to sideline him until the end of the month. But Smotrycz, who tweaked his foot injury Sunday, was also missing after trying to give it a go in the pregame. While it’s debatable either of them could have stemmed the tide, it’s sure that if Montrose Christian product Justin Anderson hadn’t backed out of his commitment, things might have been different.

The now bulky junior had 16 points and six rebounds, hitting 5-of-9 shots from the field and playing a role in that tenacious defense that had a wall around the basket much of the night. The 6-6 Anderson originally committed to Gary Williams just before the former Terrapin boss retired, and he moved on to Virginia before Turgeon had a chance to make a pitch.

The Xfinity crowd of 15,371, providing the first big home game atmosphere of the season, let Anderson hear their displeasure most of the night until he sprained his ankle late in the second half.

Actually, if Turgeon just gets all his players healthy again, the Terrapins should be fine. They host Winthrop Saturday at 2 p.m., and then North Carolina Central Dec. 10. The homestand wraps up Dec. 13 against South Carolina Upstate before another big test, Dec. 21 at Oklahoma State.

“This (loss) doesn’t hurt our confidence,” said Wiley. “I think we needed a game like this to humble us, to learn the losing experience, but not to get used to it. Nobody likes losing. Our locker room wasn’t very happy at the end of the game.”

The Terrapins never led, falling behind by 10 points early and battling uphill all night. “We didn’t come out with the intensity we needed, especially on defense,” said Richaud Pack, who 11 points. “They came out and played tougher defense from the beginning. I think it’s a learning experience for all of us. One of the things is we have to get off to better starts. More intensity on defense.”

The offense never got into rhythm either, partly a by-product of still adjusting to life without Wells. And partly because of that Virginia defense which didn’t give up many good looks until Maryland settled in a little better in the second half. The recent grueling stretch, four games in seven days, plus travel and then two days until meeting Virginia, didn’t help either.

Freshman Melo Trimble, the Big Ten Co-Player of the Week and the conference’s Freshman of the Week, led the Terps with 16 hard-earned points. He was 2-of-9 from the field but hit 12-of-14 free throws, part of a 27-of-36 effort there by the Terrapins, a key that kept them within striking distance.

Layman got nine of his 14 points in the second half and led the Terrapins with five rebounds. He was a matchup problem for the Cavaliers. Jared Nickens came off the bench to score six points and big Michal Cekovsky again had moments with two points and four rebounds.

It was enough, though, against a veteran team that looks ready to defend it’s ACC crown and make another NCAA Tournament run.

“They were very physical,” said Turgeon. “Their physicality will help us. We had not seen any team like Virginia yet, so it was kind of an eye-opener.”

Trailing by 13 midway through the second half, the Terrapins got a lift from Damonte Dodd, who hit a couple of free throws and then had a dunk on a Trimble feed to make it 53-42 at 10:38. After an amazing drive and scoop layup by Trimble, the Cavaliers ran off the next seven points to lead 61-44 at 7:47 when Anthony Gill scored inside. Gill had 11 points.

The Terps charged back with a 10-3 run, Layman hitting a couple of free throws, and Pack knocking down two 3-pointers, the second at 5:43 to make it 64-54.

But Virginia pushed the lead back to 70-56 with 4:01 left, Malcolm Brogdon hitting a back-breaking three after two Cekovsky free throws and a tip-in by Mike Tobey, who had 14 points and six rebounds. Brogdon had a game-high 18 points.

The Terrapins took it right at Virginia to start the second half, and the Cavaliers picked up seven fouls within the first six minutes, including three apiece for point guard London Perrantes, and forwards Gill and Evan Nolte. Layman opened the half with a drive and a dunk, a formula he repeated a minute later.

Layman’s first dunk cut the Virginia lead to six but Maryland wouldn’t get any closer. Anderson got fouled on a 3-point attempt, and hit two of three and then Gill scored inside to make it 46-34 with 17:01 to play.

Layman scored on a drive, and then hit one of two free throws to make it 48-38. He got two good looks on 3-pointers but missed both, the second in and out, and that led to freshman Marial Shayok scoring on a drive. When Brogdon threw in a baseline jumper at 11:40, the Cavaliers enjoyed their biggest lead to that point at 52-39.

Maryland trailed 37-29 at the half, battling uphill most of the way against that stingy Virginia defense.

Earlier, trailing by 10, a couple of freshmen got the Terrapin offense going. Nickens hit a 3-pointer at 6:50 to make it 20-13. When Wiley drilled his second three of the half right in front of the Virginia bench, the Terps were within 22-17, at 5:14.

After two Anderson free throws, Layman drove inside to slice it back to a five-point deficit, but Virginia pulled away again. Anderson scored on a drive and then Gill nailed a 3-pointer to make it 29-19 at 3:48. Anderson hit 4-of-6 shots and had a game-high 11 points at the break.

The Terrapins couldn’t get closer than eight points the rest of the half. When Anderson, who had eight of 10 Virginia points over this stretch, hit a driving shot, the Cavaliers had their biggest lead at 35-23.

Only their ability to get to the line – and convert – kept the Terrapins within striking distance. Maryland’s last 10 points came at the line, as they hit 10-of-10 over the last 3:14, six by Trimble and two apiece from Pack and Layman. For the half, the Terps were 12 of 15 at the line, to help compensate for 36.8 percent (7-of-19) shooting. Virginia hit 55.2 percent (16 of 29) to build the lead, including a commanding 24-8 edge in points in the paint.

The Terrapins missed seven of their first 10 shots and dug a 10-point hole for themselves in the game’s first 5:15. Virginia got two fastbreak buckets from Brogdon to open the scoring as Maryland struggled with the physical play. Trimble scored on a drive at 15:46 for Maryland’s first points but with Anderson hitting a 3-pointer during a run, it was 14-4 at 11:45, when Tobey hit a baseline jumper.

Wiley entered and almost immediately gave the Terrapins a lift. He had nine poins off the bench in the first 20 minutes. When Shayok missed a fastbreak layup, Layman rebounded and kicked to Wiley, who took the ball right over the 7-foot Tobey for a three-point play at 11:18, to make it 14-7. Wiley hit a pull-up three off the dribble to make it 16-10 at 8:11.

The Cavaliers eased the lead back to 10 with a jumper by Gill and a hook by Atkins.

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