No. 10 seed Maryland men’s basketball unable to survive three-point barrage from No. 2 seed Alabama in NCAA Tournament Round of 32 loss

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Darryl Morsell drove hard to the basket as his shot was blocked by Juwan Gary, prompting the Crimson Tide to push the pace in transition. Off the miss, guard John Petty Jr, splashed the triple on the feed from Jordan Shackelford.

Petty followed that up with a second three as Shackelford added two triples— a microcosm of the consistent three-point barrage that defined the Crimson Tide’s offense all night.

Those four threes ballooned Alabama’s lead from 11 to 23 in a 2:34 span, part of a 14-0 run that gave the Crimson Tide a stranglehold on the game. Thriving off of their 15 offensive rebounds, which created second-chance opportunities, the Crimson Tide splashed 16 triples in the 96-77 victory. 

Alabama’s ball movement and speedy driving ability had Maryland’s defense over rotating at times and struggling to contain the Crimson Tide throughout.  Jahvon Quinerly and Petty’s quickness off the dribble allowed Alabama to space the floor, making the Terps’ pay for late rotations defensively.

“Quinerly was off the charts,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “I mean, he controlled the whole game. We couldn’t keep him in front of us. They were all making shots. It’s hard to come help. They spaced the floor well.”

Shackelford and Petty combined for 41 points, while Quinerly added 14 points and 11 assists, the lead facilitator in the Crimson Tide’s attack.

Aaron Wiggins was Maryland’s biggest bright spot with a career-high 27 points on 11-17 shooting giving the Terps offense a spark throughout. 

Maryland’s offense enjoyed one of its better shooting performances of the season at 53%, but Alabama’s consistency and pace proved too much. Eric Ayala, Morsell and Donta Scott each scored in double figures, as Maryland attempted to climb back in the game.

Despite Alabama’s impressive shooting throughout, it was Maryland’s offense who shined in the opening seven minutes making eight of its first 13 shots, including seven consecutive makes. 

The Terps early offense was effective sharing the ball from side-to-side moving off-ball with well-timed cuts. Additionally, three of those early baskets came off Crimson Tide turnovers that allowed Maryland to take advantage of fast break opportunities.

However, with 13 minutes remaining in the first half, Turgeon brought in Reese Mona, Galin Smith and Jairus Hamilton off the bench to give his starters a breather. With three of Maryland’s starters on the bench, the Crimson Tide capitalized, orchestrating a 15-4 run to take a 27-22 lead with 8:54 remaining in the first half.

“They found a rhythm,” Morsell said. “We got out early and then they found their rhythm, started hitting shots, and never stopped missing shots.”

That prolific offensive stretch epitomized Alabama’s success pushing the pace catalyzed by their consistent perimeter shot making. Alex Reese galvanized the Crimson Tide’s offense with a pair of triples during the run, another shining example of Alabama’s confidence from three.

That five-out lineup from Alabama stretched the floor and allowed Alabma’s guards more driving lanes to kick out to open shooters. Despite Alabama’s dynamic offense, Wiggins and Jairus Hamilton kept the Terps within striking distance with impressive perimeter shooting of their own. 

The duo combined to knock down five triples in the final five minutes of the first half, trimming Alabama’s lead to eight at the break. Maryland shot 50% from the field in the opening 20 minutes led by Wiggins 13 points, but the -10 margin on the glass and Alabama’s eight made threes were the main reasons the Terps trailed.

Unfortunately for Maryland, Alabama’s three-point shooting prowess only intensified at the start of the second half as the Crimson Tide executed a 19-4 run in the opening five minutes powered by five triples.

“We just couldn’t get anything going offensively during that stretch either and they were making some tough ones,” Turgeon said of the run. “They’re good when they get going.”

Now leading by 23, Maryland was in an uphill battle the remainder of the contest looking to put together consistent stops. After scoring five consecutive points trimming the deficit to 18, Petty answered with another triple this time from the left corner with a hand in face relinquishing Maryland’s brief momentum.

For the remainder of the contest, Maryland wasn’t able to trim the deficit to less than 16. Wiggins continued his efficient first half with strong moves attacking the basket and confident perimeter shooting, but Maryland couldn’t combine consistent stops with long scoring runs to complete the comeback.

With just over a minute remaining, Turgeon emptied his bench as five all starters came out of the game. In a warm embrace with their teammates and coaches, the Terps’ starters could only watch as the final buzzer sounded.

Although upset with the result, that embrace carried into the locker room where Maryland reflected back on the consistent toughness and grittiness that defined a season where they continued to defy the odds and silence their doubters.

“I told our guys, don’t let this night ruin what you accomplished,” Turgeon said. “Let’s talk about all the great things.”

“It’s the grittiest group of guys I ever played basketball with,” Morsell added. “I think we go down in my record books as the grittiest team ever to put on that Maryland jersey. I can’t do nothing but applaud these guys.”

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