Maryland men’s basketball escapes West Virginia, advances to second round of NCAA Tournament

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

With under four minutes to go, guard Jahmir Young was double-teamed and the ball was tipped around, but somehow, forward Julian Reese snared down the ball after it was tipped around. The ball bounced off five or six different players’ hands, and Reese found a wide-open guard Hakim Hart in front of the basket for an easy layup to break a 59-59 tie. 

The bucket was critical down the stretch as the Terps tried to pull away from the Mountaineers. 

No. 8 seed Maryland men’s basketball (22-12) survived No. 9 seed West Virginia (19-15) after the Mountaineers missed a game-winning three-point attempt at the buzzer, winning the game, 67-65. The Mountaineers had a good look but the ball hit the front of the rim after Young missed a free throw with under five seconds remaining. 

“If he made both, we still weren’t going to foul with 4.2 seconds you have to play it out,” Willard said. “You have to hope, you know, and I thought, you know, when he missed it, that’s a lot. 4.7 is a lot of time.”

With West Virginia missing the game-winning buzzer-beater, the Terps will take on No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. Head coach Kevin Willard improved his NCAA Tournament record to 2-5 with the win. 

Maryland quickly found themselves in a 13-point hole after starting the game 2-2 from the field. West Virginia’s defense gave the Terps offense troubles forcing plenty of turnovers. 

West Virginia went on a 11-0 run to take a 13-4 lead as they held Maryland scoreless for close to eight minutes. Young turned the ball over three times as the Mountaineers poked the ball away, getting steals and scoring nine points off turnovers. 

“I told them, I said let’s not get down 20,” Willard said. “But you know when you look up and you have 6 turnovers and it’s only 13-4, there’s reason to be excited.”

Maryland’s strong defense helped keep its deficit at nine points as West Virginia could not score for three in half minutes until Mountaineers guard Joe Toussiant knocked down a contested three-pointer to continue West Virginia’s 14-0 scoring run. 

Maryland finally ended its scoring drought after Young knocked down a pair of free throws to score Maryland’s first points in close to eight minutes. After that, the Terps caught fire, ripping off a 7-0 and 9-0 scoring runs to close the gap in four minutes. 

“As the game went on, Coach made the adjustments and we were able to adjust and make the right plays and make the right decisions and get back on defense and match their physicality over ours,” Reese said. 

Reese scored Maryland’s first field goal in eight minutes, and Carey scored a three-pointer to shrink West Virginia’s lead to 19-11. The run continued as forward Patrick Emilien completed a three-point play after being fouled on a layup. Then Young hit a three-pointer to give Maryland its first lead at 22-21 since 4-2 in the opening minutes. 

The Terps forced turnovers scoring 11 points off turnovers, helping them get back into the game. From there, the teams continued to trade baskets to close out the first half. Emilien flashed his pull-up jumper, scoring right before the shot clock expired near the end of the first half as the Terps took a 32-30 lead after trailing by 13 points early in the first half. 

“It says a lot about our character to me,” Hart said. “It shows we’re going to keep continuing to fight. No matter the outcome. Just keep continuing to keep fighting.”

Guard Kedrian Johnson kept the Mountaineers afloat scoring 10 first-half points.

Reese started the second half by earning an and-one after the ball rolled around the rim and through. The sophomore knocked down the free throw giving Maryland its largest lead of the game at four points.

West Virginia forward Jimmy Bell Jr. picked up three fouls in about 10 minutes as the Terps got into the bonus and the Terps made their free throws. Bell Jr. quickly picked up his fourth foul after running into Reese early in the second half. Foul trouble was an issue for both sides as players picked up three and four fouls as the refs called every little thing. The teams combined for 43 fouls, including for over 26 in the second half, but the Terps fought through the adversity. 

Johnson heated up in the second half going on a 10-0 run himself, completing the four-point play and giving West Virginia a 41-38 lead. West Virginia extended its run with guard Seth Wilson and Johnson hitting back-to-back three-pointers. 

Reese heated up, scoring layups, including one in between two defenders helping the Terps come back again. The sophomore big man was one of the few players to stay out of foul trouble not picking up his first until the second half. Reese finished the game with a team-high 17 points and nine rebounds. 

Hart heated up as well, scoring six straight points and getting to the basket for layups, including one to tie the game at 54-54. The senior finished the game with 15 points scoring critical baskets down the stretch. 

Maryland could not slow West Virginia’s three-point offense as guard Erik Stevenson hit a three-pointer to give the Mountaineers a 59-56 lead with 5:33 to go. Overall, West Virginia shot 42.1% from beyond the arc. 

But Maryland secured some critical offensive and defensive rebounds down the stretch limiting West Virginia’s opportunities to close out the win. Now, the Terps will take on the No. 1 overall seed Alabama on Saturday.