No. 4 Maryland (4-4-2 B1G) ended its Big Ten Tournament at No. 1 Indiana (9-1 B1G) with a 2-0 loss in the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals.
Assistant coach Jake Pace assumed head coaching duties for the Terps after Sasho Cirovski was sent off in Maryland’s penalty shootout win over Rutgers on Saturday.
After a cagey first 20 minutes, the game started to open up and both sides created some good chances.
Maryland’s best chance of the first half came in the 23rd minute after the Terps countered from an Indiana corner kick. Junior forward/midfielder Brayan Padilla carried the ball forward and found senior forward Eric Matzelevich inside the box, but his shot went just past the near post.
Indiana’s best chance of the first half came after redshirt sophomore midfielder Ben Yeagley’s cross found sophomore forward Victor Bezerra’s head inside the goal box in the 42nd minute. However, Maryland was let off as Bazerra’s header went over the bar, and the two sides went into halftime tied.
Maryland’s injury problems continued when freshman defender Alex Nitzl pulled up at the end of the first half and was replaced by freshman defender Kento Abe, who made his first appearance for the Terps. Nitzl’s injury marked another injury to an already thin Maryland back line.
“I thought [Abe] was fantastic,” Cirovski said. “He’s waited patiently for his opportunity… and he showed something tonight, so I’m very proud of him.”
The Hoosiers scored the opening goal in the 47th minute when Bezerra met junior defender Nyk Sessock’s cross at the near post. Bazerra, who was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, vollied the cross home at the near post to give Indiana the lead just 80 seconds into the second half.
Indiana scored again in the 56th minute after Bezerra found some space from a tricky free kick by the Hooziers. Bezerra ripped a low driven shot from 25 yards out that hit the inside of the near post and went in to double Indiana’s lead. He was a thorn in Maryland’s side throughout the match, creating golden opportunities for the Hoosiers in the win.
“He’s got a really good feel for the game and he’s got a great shot, but he can also beat you off the dribble,” Cirovski said. “He’s kind of a complete striker. I think he’s improved over the last year or so, and he’s really confident right now.”
Maryland was able to create a few chances in the latter stages of the game, but Bezerra’s second half brace downed the Terps and eliminated them from the Big Ten Tournament at the semifinal stage.
Despite the loss, Cirovski was still proud of his team’s performance.
“I am incredibly proud of all of our young men tonight and the effort they put out there,” Cirovski said. “I thought we played a great first half, and the effort for the whole 90 minutes was great… We had a bunch of warriors out there today.”
The loss leaves the Terps’ hopes for the national tournament hanging in the balance, as Maryland will need an at-large bid to get into a reduced 36 team NCAA tournament field, which is to be announced Monday.
“I know my team, despite the adversity I think we’re an NCAA tournament team,” Cirovski said. “With a reduced field I think it’s going to be a challenge. We didn’t do our part earlier in the year and that could bite us, but we’ll have to leave up for the committee to sort that out.”