Maryland men’s basketball lackluster offensively, trounced by Michigan

Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland men’s basketball fell hard to Michigan on Sunday afternoon in an 81-46 throttling, as the Terps’ worst game of the season coincided with perhaps the Wolverines’ best. The contest was never close, as Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson went off for 32 points and 12 rebounds. The 35-point loss was the biggest the Terps had suffered since joining the Big Ten a decade ago.

The Terps (11-3, 1-2 in the Big Ten) had hoped to cobble together another winning streak—they took their first eight games of the season, then lost their next three and prevailed in their most recent matchups against Saint Peter’s and UMBC—heading into conference play.

“Three or four games, we’ve gotten off to bad starts,” said Maryland coach Kevin Willard after the loss. “We just haven’t been able to find our way out.” 

The Terps had mixed success in the conference in 2022. They bested the Fighting Illini in a dramatic affair, which culminated in Jahmir Young heroically burying a clutch three with 14 seconds remaining, only to come up short against Wisconsin the next outing.

The Wolverines (7-5, 1-0 in Big Ten play against Minnesota) began the season winning four straight but were coming off of two back-to-back losses, including a recently dropped game to 5-8 Central Michigan on Thursday.

Heading into Sunday’s matchup, Michigan and Terps were evenly matched in rebounding, with 27 per game. Michigan’s average was largely behind Terrence Williams and DeMatha’s own Hunter Dickinson, who had combined for 15 rebounds a night. Dickinson had also led the Wolverines in scoring, with the 7’1 junior center regularly putting up nearly 18 through 12 games.

The Terps reverted to the lineup they’ve used in all, but their last two games, with forward Julian Reese fully returning from a shoulder injury and guard Don Carey back from the bench. Carey was coming off a 19-point explosion against UMBC on Thursday, where he was responsible for five of Maryland’s six threes.

Maryland dug itself in a hole in the first three minutes, falling behind 10-0 while suffering two turnovers. Dickinson established himself early, picking and popping to score the first bucket, then drawing a foul on Reese, and finally bullying his way to the rack in that short span to help put the Wolverines on top.

Through five minutes, the Wolverines went seven for seven from the field, while Maryland was scoreless on six attempts to stall out at the wrong end of a 16-0 deficit. Dickinson finally subbed out, having eaten Reese alive in the post, shooting four for four with crafty moves.

The Terps finally ended the scoring drought when Noah Batchelor drew a foul while taking a three-pointer six minutes in, but only cashed in on one of three free throws. They didn’t connect on a field goal until the eight-minute mark when Ian Martinez finally sank a three to bring the score to 19-4. The dominating Dickinson came back the other way and drained another mid-range shot, with Maryland looking completely outmatched.

The Michigan defense put on a clinic, keeping the Terps from entering within the arc and constantly rotating to keep shooters uncomfortable. Reese picked up two quick fouls on Dickinson but had to stay in the game since he served as Maryland’s best chance at defending him. 

By the half, Michigan held a confounding 44-13 lead. Maryland had somehow taken more shots than Michigan (30-27), but only connected on four of them. The Wolverines had hit on 18 of 27 attempts, a hyper-efficient 67% clip. They had commanded the boards from the jump, leading that category 26-12 through 20 minutes. Dickinson led all scorers with 18 – more than the entire Maryland roster totaled in that time frame.

Kobe Bufkin exemplified the impressive Michigan defense, nabbing three steals in the first half. On the rare occasion that the Terps forced a turnover and initiated a fast break, the Wolverines blocked off the lane, holding Maryland to two points off turnovers while they scored 15 when they had that same opportunity.

Maryland’s Jahari Long came out of the bench after the break, putting in five points in an attempt to get his team back into the mix, but Dickinson continued his reign of terror with a flurry of finishes to push his point total to 26. His nine rebounds to that point also outclassed the Terps, with Reese and backup Patrick Emilien combining for four.

Emilien fouled out with 14 minutes left in the second period, sending Reese back in with his three fouls, and it took mere seconds for him to commit another. He committed his fifth and final infraction halfway through the period, clearing the way for rarely used Caelum Swanton-Rodger to try his hand at slowing down Dickinson. 

The Michigan center exited with six minutes remaining, having piled up 32 points, one shy of his career high. He led the Wolverines’ paint prowess, as his squad outscored the Terps in that area 42-22. His 12 rebounds gave him the 20th double-double of his collegiate career.

Long finished with nine points, with several coming in garbage time, giving him the team’s high in points. Young, Donta Scott and Hakim Hart combined for only 18 points on 7-27 shooting.

“We gotta figure out how to score against bigger teams,” Willard said. “This has nothing to do with the players. This is totally on me, and I’ll get it right.”

Maryland’s next chance will come against Rutgers in Piscataway on Thursday when the Terps will look to restore a conference record of .500.