Maryland’s defense falters as they fall 84-73 to No. 16 Michigan

(Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

Coming off its biggest win of the young season, Maryland basketball couldn’t keep the momentum going as they fell at home 84-73 to No. 16 Michigan on New Year’s Eve. 

The Wolverines were led by freshman center Hunter Dickinson, who scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, fresh off his third Big Ten Freshman of the Week award. The DMV native was 10-11 from the field and 6-7 from the free throw line.

Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon called Dickinson “a man possessed” as the Terrapins failed to contain the freshman phenom throughout the game. Turgeon also touched on the team’s defensive struggles down the stretch. 

“We couldn’t keep the ball in front of us,” Turgeon said. “Our offense was good enough to win the game, [but] our defense just wasn’t good enough.”

Michigan came into the contest averaging 82 points per game against a stout Terrapin defense that held the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers to under 70 points. The Terrapins gave up over 80 points for the first time since the 2017-2018 season. 

On the other side of the ball, the Terps looked sluggish at the start, shooting 3-11 to start the game. They followed up a slow start offensively with a torrid shooting stretch to end the opening half, hitting 9 of 11 three pointers within the first 20 minutes of play. 

The game’s turning point came midway through the first half when Senior Darryl Morsell left the game with a head injury after taking a shot to the face by Michigan guard Franz Wagner. 

Junior guard Eric Ayala discussed the impact of Morsell’s absence. 

“He’s tremendous,” Ayala said. “He can guard one through five, his physicality, his toughness, the way he impacts the game offensively and defensively. It was tough.” 

Turgeon did not have an immediate update on Morsell, but mentioned he was en route to a nearby trauma center following the game. 

Things got chippy in the first half, with each team being issued two technical fouls and one coming from Dickinson following a staredown of the Terrapin bench. Turgeon described Thursday night’s battle as “emotional game,” but this game meant something more to Dickinson. Dickinson told reporters earlier this week he felt slighted when Maryland did not make much of an effort to recruit him. 

Michigan led 46-44 at the break, with Terps forward Donta Scott catching fire from deep, connecting on all four of his attempts. He led all scorers at the half with 14 points. Scott and Jairus Hamilton combined for 25 of the team’s 44 points in the first half.

On the visitor’s side, Dickinson scored 11 points while shooting 4-4 from the field within the first 20 minutes of play, while Wagner chipped in with ten points. Each team shot just over 50% in the opening half.

The second half started as a back-and-forth affair, as there were five lead changes in as many minutes to open the half. However, the game slipped away from the Terps as Michigan jumped out to a double-digit lead midway through the half with a 15-0 run, capped off by a two-handed jam by Dickinson. The dominating stretch was part of a 22-4 run by the Wolverines which lasted most of the second half. 

After putting on a clinic from beyond the arc in the first half, Maryland went cold from three coming out of the break, going 2-8 to start the second half. 

Dickinson continued to dominate the paint in the game’s final 20 minutes, scoring 15 points while grabbing 8 rebounds. Ultimately, the Terrapins’ inability to come up with stops on the defensive end coupled with its failure to get to the free throw line led to the high-scoring defeat. 

“We didn’t get to the foul line,” Turgeon said. “They shot 16 free throws in the first half and we ended up shooting 6 for the game.” 

Being sloppy with the ball didn’t help the Terps either. After committing under 10 turnovers in each of their previous four games, the Terps had 12 against Michigan.  

Wagner finished with 19 points, including three triples, after struggling from three much of this season. Graduate transfer Mike Smith scored 16, along with 6 rebounds and 6 assists. 

Scott led all Maryland scorers with 19 and hit all five of his three point attempts. Ayala had 16 points while Hamilton contributed with 15. 

The Terps get back to action on Monday as they travel to Bloomington to take on the Indiana Hoosiers at 8:00PM on BTN. Five of their next seven games are against ranked opponents, but that’s just life in the Big Ten conference.