Maryland basketball dismantles Rutgers in Big Ten Tournament opener

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

The No. 12 Maryland Terrapins, who finished the regular season 15-16 and 7-13 in the Big Ten, traveled to Minneapolis on Wednesday for their first game of the Big Ten Tournament against the No. 13 Rutgers Scarlet Knights at the Target Center. 

With an identical record to Maryland both in-conference and overall, Rutgers received the penultimate seed in the tournament only above Michigan (3-17 in Big Ten) after losing to Ohio State 51-73 on Sunday— its third straight loss. The Terps, too, entered the tournament on three straight losses, with their last win happening over Rutgers at the end of February in a 63-46 score. 

Maryland notched its second-straight win against Rutgers, 65-51, moving on to the second round of the tournament.

“We struggled defensively the last couple of games, and I think our main focus the last two days was trying to get our energy back on the defensive end,” head coach Kevin Willard said post-game. 

Maryland’s starters included guards DeShawn Harris-Smith and Jahmir Young with forwards Jamie Kaiser Jr., Julian Reese and Donta Scott. For Rutgers, guards Jamichael Davis, Gavin Griffiths and Jeremiah Williams took the court first with forwards Oskar Palmquist and Clifford Omoruyi. 

The Terps kicked things off with an 11-0 run put together in the span of two and a half minutes which forced Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell to call a considerably early timeout. The points came from all starters except Jahmir Young, with Scott and Kaiser Jr. each knocking down a three-point shot. 

Only Gavin Griffiths accounted for Rutgers’ five total points in the first five minutes, sinking his own three-pointer and a jump shot as Maryland’s lead continued to exceed 10 points.

The lead held sturdy for the remainder of the first half, never falling below eight points despite a quiet showing from Young who entered the break only scoring six.

“[Young] is one of the best players in the country,” Willard said post-game. “When you have a work ethic and character like Jahmir has, good things happen.”

Maryland led 36-22 at the half primarily from the efforts of Scott (nine points), Kaiser Jr. (eight points) and Young, while shooting 44% from the field. 

“When we make shots, we’re really, really good,” Willard said at halftime. “There’s times this year where we just struggled to make open shots. We got a couple of good open looks […] and it kind of relaxes us a little bit to be honest with you.”

It only took three minutes for Maryland’s 14-point lead to extend to 20 in the second half, and it was Julian Reese who got the job done with a dunk over Rutgers’ Aundre Hyatt. 

As the clock surpassed the nine-minute mark, Reese’s point total jumped to 12. By that time, Maryland was shooting 48% from the field only to maintain and extend its 20-point safety cushion. 

Rutgers floated around the 30% mark for the majority of the game, hitting several minutes-long scoring droughts in both halves.

With under a minute left, senior guard Jahari Long’s knee buckled as he dribbled down court, and after hitting the floor, he was escorted to the locker room. Long finished the game with three points and two rebounds. 

“[Long] said he twisted his knee, so we just want to pray for him,” Jahmir Young said post-game. “Just gotta hope for the best.”

In the final seven minutes, Rutgers put together a 15-3 scoring run as Maryland suffered eight straight turnovers on offense, but there would not be enough time for a comeback.

Donta Scott finished leading the Terps with 16 points, followed by Julian Reese with 12, and tying with 11— Jamie Kaiser Jr. and Jahmir Young.

“Just limiting them to one shot and trying to get out in transition, that’s where we did our damage,” Young said regarding his eight rebounds. “I know how important that is, so I just try to go to the boards and do anything to help my team.”

Maryland moves on to face No. 5 Wisconsin on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. EST. In their last matchup, the Badgers won by four points in Madison.