The first and second half for Maryland were like night and day. What was once a blistering, confident offense and defense quickly dissolved into a frazzled and burned out version of the team that tipped-off the contest.
It resulted in a brutal collapse that allowed Rutgers (10-7, 4-2 B1G) to charge past the Terps, handing Maryland (9-8, 1-5 B1G) its eighth loss of the season. After entering the half up, 38-27, the Terps fell apart in nightmarish fashion, scoring just 21 points in response to the Scarlet Knights 43 second half points in a, 70-59 loss.
“The second half, we didn’t come out and finish the way we needed to,” interim head coach Danny Manning said. “We played well enough in the first half to give ourselves a chance to win. We didn’t finish the way we needed to.”
After smothering Rutgers’ Aundre Hyatt and forcing an errant pass directly to Donta Scott, the Terps’ forward began storming down the court with designs to finish at the rim. In spite of the two Rutgers wings impeding his path to the basket, Scott stepped into the contact and finished with the foul.
The play capped off interim head coach Danny Manning’s ideal Maryland run — defense that leads to offense coupled with an offense that gets to the line. It was a sequence that also was a microcosm of the play that had transpired for the first 20 minutes and mirrored the play of the final 20. Rutgers 11 first half turnovers resulted in 18 Maryland points — which came in all forms. Free throws, fast break layups and threes all contributed to the Terps, 38-27, halftime lead.
“The first half was pretty solid,” Manning said. “We did some good things.”
Hakim Hart scored a pair of fast break layups, Fatts Russell got to the line and went 5-5 at the charity stripe and Eric Ayala drained two threes consecutively — all plays were thanks to Rutgers struggles to maintain possession and composure on the defensive end.
But things went rapidly south as the second half began. Maryland struggled to score, while the Scarlet Knights took immediate control — reducing turnovers, improving to five second half giveaways, and playing with poise on the defensive side.
Maryland was out-battled in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, due to a 20-7 run, but quickly regained the lead with threes from Scott and Ayala, respectively. Rutgers’ Ron Harper Jr. answered with a consecutive pair of triples of his own, giving the Scarlet Knights a multiple possession lead they never gave up.
The second three, a step back bank shot over Scott, exemplified his 20-point, second half revival.
As Harper continued to drain shots, contested and otherwise, en route to a strong 31-point finish, Maryland folded under the pressure of Rutgers’ newfound aggressiveness. Ayala became a non-factor as the Rutgers defense began honing in on the guard. Fifteen free throws in the first half regressed to just four opportunities in the second and Maryland caught the turnover troubles Rutgers dealt with in the first 20 minutes, conceding nine giveaways.
“When we had some opportunities to score the ball,” Manning said. “We just didn’t make shots,”
Moreover, the Terps especially made matters worse, allowing seven crushing threes in the second half. Rutgers initially made just three in the opening period.
Shooting 7-28 and losing all of the magic they had in the first half, the Terps may have also lost all of the momentum they took from Northwestern with their fifth Big Ten loss.
“As a team, we gotta adapt better,” Ayala said. “The Big Ten is tough. No game is gonna be easy and we just gotta go out and compete every night.”