Incredible second half leads Maryland past No. 3 Purdue

Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Julian Reese caught the pass underneath the basket and laid in the ball. The ball bounced around the rim before falling through the net, giving Maryland the lead for just the second time. Fans in the Xfinity Center rose to their feet, revitalized and ready to help ensure Purdue would not go up again.

Maryland never squandered the lead following an impeccable 26-4 run that came with the team trailing by seven. Maryland’s student section mobbed the court, as the Terps knocked off No. 3 Purdue, 68-54.

Coming off a dominant home victory against Penn State, the 17-8 Maryland Terrapins found themselves defending Xfinity Center once again on Thursday night, this time against No. 3 Purdue (23-3, 12-3 Big Ten).

Within the presence of its home crowd, or its ‘sixth-man’ as Hakim Hart put it, Maryland plotted revenge for the 55-58 loss to Purdue that the team suffered back in January. 

Reese scored Maryland’s first two baskets in an effort to stay on pace with Purdue’s hot start. Jahmir Young followed suit with a layup, bringing the score to 6-6 just five minutes into the first half.

Ten minutes into the game, the score was only 11-14, demonstrating the defensive effort put in on both sides of the court. Purdue had five personal fouls in that time, making it clear that the Boilermakers’  strategy was to play aggressively in the paint.

With six minutes left to play in the first half, the Terps’ Patrick Emilien pulled up for his first three-pointer of the season, finally breaking Purdue’s lengthy lead.

“I thought Pat came in and gave us a huge boost,” head coach Kevin Willard said post-game. “He came in, gave us 15 monster minutes, and I thought his energy in the second half changed everything.” Emilien finished the night with nine points and three rebounds.

Maryland trailed Purdue at half, 25-28. Even with Purdue handing Maryland 11 free throw shots, the Terps’ field goal shooting percentage of just 31% continued to cripple their chances of taking the lead. The point leaders for Maryland at half were Young (9 points), Emilien (7 points) and Reese (4 points).

“I think they were a little amped up,” Coach Willard said in response to his team’s shaky start. “Great crowd. Big game. I thought we came out and just played super fast on offense. And sometimes when you’re pressing them it’s really hard to transition.”

Purdue began the second half proving they still had more in the tank. Braden Smith racked up five points in the first minute of play, followed by a pair of layups from Zach Edey on the next two possessions to advance the Boilermakers’ lead. 

As Maryland tried to keep up, Edey’s size inside the paint made it increasingly difficult. He had two blocks just two minutes into the half.

Five minutes into the final period, Terp Don Carey made a layup to tie the game, 37-37. On the next possession, a layup from Reese finally gave the Terps back the lead, electrifying the Maryland crowd.

“Just thinking where we were last year at this time, now sitting 17-9 and beating a top five team in the country is a huge confidence booster,” Reese said in his post-game presser.

With roughly ten minutes left to play, Purdue found itself in a prolonged scoring drought as Maryland continued its 16-point run. The Terps led 45-40, having finally flipped the momentum in their favor.

A drive from Ian Martinez to the basket drew a foul. His shot went in, putting Maryland up, 52-41. With over a ten point lead, the Terps continued to feed off of Xfinity Center’s high-spirited energy. As the momentum continued the score advanced to 58-41 in just over a minute.

As the final minutes expired, Maryland maintained careful possession of the ball to prevent any final pushes from Purdue. The Boilermakers continued to feed Edey under the basket, but there was not enough time to make up for their slump.

Maryland officially handed Purdue its biggest loss of the season, Maryland fans rushed the court to celebrate with the team.