No. 20 Maryland men’s basketball loses to George Mason after failed comeback bid

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Maryland men’s basketball nearly pulled off another second-half comeback, but couldn’t quite catch up to George Mason, who held on to win, 71-66. 

“We didn’t vote ourselves 20th, so you take everybody’s best shot and we don’t know how to handle it yet,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. 

Maryland seemed to be out of the game with a few minutes remaining, thanks to a stagnant offense and poor shooting. But just when they needed it most, senior guard Eric Ayala hit three consecutive three-point shots, to bring Maryland within one. 

A late bucket by George Mason’s Josh Oduro put the Patriots up by three. And when Ayala missed an attempt for his fourth straight triple, his shot fell short along with Maryland’s comeback bid. 

“George Mason was terrific, let’s be real,” Turgeon said. “Until we learn how to share the ball a little bit better and pass it better and make better decisions, our defense better be outstanding and it wasn’t outstanding tonight, and that’s why we ended up losing. 

It was a disappointing result for Maryland in a game that started well. After struggling to shoot the ball — especially from three — Maryland started the game with back-to-back makes from deep. They were sharing the ball early, and looked to be better offensively. After averaging 14 assists throughout their first three games, they had 12 alone in the first half. 

However, their shooting struggles returned later in the game. Maryland managed to finish the first half shooting 54.2%, but shot just 38.7% in the second half. Maryland was credited with only four assists in the second half, finishing the game with 16. 

George Mason also did a good job of defending the paint, where the Terps have made an effort to overwhelm opponents offensively. In the paint, Maryland mustered a season low 20 points to George Mason’s 22. 

“Defensively they looked great… they wouldn’t let us get in the paint…” Turgeon said.

Offensively, George Mason made a number of tough shots throughout the game, and finished 44.8% from the floor. However the Patriots shot 50% from three, going 12-24.

For Maryland, Donta Scott had his best game of the season, finishing with 18 points on an efficient 7-12 from the floor and 3-5 from deep. Eric Ayala struggled outside of the aforementioned burst at the end of the game, and finished with 17 points on 6-17 shooting. 

The heralded transfers of the squad, Qudus Wahab and Fatts Russell, both had an untimely cold streaks. Wahab saw his second straight game of consistent double teams, and played only 16 minutes. Russell was serviceable defensively and competed hard, but only made one field goal and finished with two points. 

With Wahab mostly on the bench, Maryland finished the game with a small lineup featuring two point guards, Russell and Ian Martinez, along with Julian Reese. Reese was noticeable throughout the game, finishing a perfect 4-4 from the floor which included his first three pointer of the season. He also seemed to have a better handle defensively on George Mason’s quicker big-men. 

“It was more about defense down there with him, and [Reese] just really played well, so we kind of stuck with him,” Turgeon said of the rotational selection of Reese.  

Turgeon also noted that the game followed a lackluster practice yesterday, that was a source of frustration for the coaching staff.

“We didn’t approach things right yesterday. Hopefully that will teach them a lesson,” Turgeon said.  

Maryland plays their next game on Friday at home vs. Hofstra.