Maryland basketball falls to No. 7 Tennessee, drops second-straight

Photo by Maryland Athletics

Donta Scott pulled up for the jumper inside the paint, draining the ball through the net. After trailing Tennessee by 21 points, Maryland was just five points behind. Barclays Center erupted as Maryland fans realized they had the chance to pull of a miraculous comeback.

Maryland wound up falling short as they were defeated by Tennessee, 56-53.

The 8-1 Maryland Terrapins traveled to New York on Sunday to face the 8-1 Tennessee Volunteers as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational hosted at Barclays Center. This game marked the first meeting between Maryland and Tennessee since 1984, allowing Tennessee to take the lead in what remained a 2-2 overall series record for decades.

Maryland entered the game ranked No. 13 following a 64-59 loss at Wisconsin on Tuesday. Tennessee, however, came into the game at No. 7 after a dominant 84-49 victory over Eastern Kentucky, becoming Maryland’s highest ranked opponent of the season thus far.

The Terrapins started the first half with a slow production on offense, accounting for just a single basket in the first five minutes of play. Tennessee quickly took advantage with an 8-0 run to establish some space ahead of Maryland early in the game.

“It really wasn’t them, it was us,” Jahmir Young said in his post-game presser. “We were stagnant on the offensive end as the game became more physical.”

Tennessee continued to dominate on both sides of the ball as the first period progressed, establishing a 10-point lead in the first ten minutes of play. Thanks to its defensive effort inside the paint, the Terps had only been successful in two out of 12 shot attempts while also having suffered seven turnovers.

“We gave up 21 offensive rebounds,” head coach Kevin Willard said post-game. “We knew how athletic they were, but we kind of just let them push us around too much.”

With five minutes remaining in the first period, Tennessee led by 17 points after holding the Terrapins from scoring on 11 straight possessions.  Young finally broke the scoring drought with a 3-pointer to cut the lead down.

The Volunteers doubled Maryland’s points at half, 34-17.

Tennessee’s point leaders in the first half were Santia Vescovi (7) and Julian Philips (6), while Tyreke Key and Olivi Nkamhoua accounted for five points each. The Volunteers shot for 28% in the first period but only turned the ball over three times.

Maryland, on the other hand, had less-than-impressive stats in the first half. Jahmir Young was the clear point leader (7), followed by Donald Carey (3) and Hakim Hart (3). Usual difference-makers Julian Reese and Donta Scott each had a quiet half with 0 and 1 points, respectively. Maryland shot for 13% in the half and turned the ball over a whopping ten times.

“[Jahmir] is progressing, probably a little faster than I thought he would be,” Coach Willard said. “I think that’s one reason why we are where we are.”

Jahmir Young and Donta Scott started the half by scoring on back to back possessions in an effort to change the momentum in Maryland’s direction. As Tennessee responded, Reese scored on two straight possessions to earn his first four points of the night.

With about ten minutes to play, Young knocked down a jumper to bring Maryland within 10 points of Tennessee. The Volunteers lost the ball out of bounds on their next possession, which led to a layup from Julian Reese following the turnover.

Young was fouled for two points, and then Scott scored another jumper on the next possession. Suddenly the score was 45-41 with seven minutes to play.

A foul on Ian Martinez gave the Terps a chance to trail by a point with just three-and-a-half minutes to go. Martinez knocked down just one of the free throws, bringing the score to 51-49.

As the last few minutes of the game played out, Maryland desperately tried to take the lead as Tennessee refused to let up. Layups from Hart on back to back possessions brought the score to 55-53 with just under thirty seconds to play.

Jahmir Young had a chance to tie the game from inside the paint but missed his jump shot. Tennessee was fouled off the rebound, making a free throw to increase its lead by three before time expired.

“As good as these games are, sometimes you can take a step back playing some of these games because you’re not given enough practice time,” Willard said.