No. 20 Maryland men’s basketball sputters to win, narrowly defeats Hofstra, 69-67

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

After five games, the need for a more collective offense is abundantly clear.

Individually, however, several of the Terps best athletes were willing to provide the necessary offensive spark. And in crunch time, guard Eric Ayala was willing to produce on both ends. With less than 30 seconds left in regulation and the Terps in need of a game tying bucket, Ayala put his ugly shooting night behind him and knifed through Hofstra’s defense to even the game’s score at 67. 

After converting the game’s last field goal, Ayala completed his two-way sequence with a deflection to keep the contest tied. The scramble for the loose ball led to a foul that put Ian Martinez to the line to ice the game, 69-67. 

“I was shooting free throws [at the shootaround] thinking, you know, maybe today, I’ll be in that situation,” Martinez said. “So I have to think like I’m the only one in the gym right now. And [that] worked for me.”

The clutch fourth quarter play edged the Terps past Hofstra for Maryland’s fourth win of the season.

“We didn’t panic.” Head coach Mark Turgeon said, “I thought we got a little sped up Wednesday and we didn’t panic tonight and we’re work in progress. But that’s a good team [we beat].” 

The Terps started the contest playing a simple brand of basketball. The tried and true method of feeding the post granted Maryland 10 easy paint points at the under-12 timeout. But without a consistent outside shot, Maryland’s lack of versatility was resonant when the Pride began denying paint touches. 

Maryland’s total 16 points were bested by Hofstra’s 20 at the first half’s midpoint, and the Pride shot a strong 4-9 from behind the arc as Maryland made just one of its four attempts. 

Hakim Hart entered to showcase his newly improved jumper and hit his first two three-point shots of his junior season. He opened his first four games as a starting defensive wing, but shined in those few moments of game five as Maryland’s much needed sharpshooter. 

In spite of his energizing play, Maryland finished with a frigid 5-22 mark from three, continuing this season’s trend of questionable three-point offense. Continuing the theme of unsustainable offense, the Terps also finished with 15 assists to their 16 turnovers.

Hart helped Maryland jump to a 24-20 lead with his six points, but after an 11-3 run, another crowd pleasing individual effort was needed. 

Enter Martinez, who after showing spurts of his ability on numerous separate occasions, put it all together in one 90 second series. The Utah transfer scored seven of Maryland’s final nine points of the half. Martinez’ midrange jumper, three and fastbreak slam after a blocked jumpshot offered the Terps considerable momentum and a 34-31 lead at the break.  

“[It comes from] just getting stops from defense and then just running,” Martinez said, “Having the fans helped a lot. Everybody gets into that energy [and] gets focused on defense.”

The three point lead, of course, was far from what was needed to put away a determined Hofstra team, and after the Pride continued to draw close throughout the second half and splash a three for their first lead of the period, the Terps needed another single-man show. 

Fatts Russell rose to the challenge and attacked the rim with verve and scored Maryland’s next seven. 

To rise back to a two point lead with less than a minute left, Hofstra used a pair of tough threes to curb the attack and Ayala stepped in to play closer. Martinez followed with his points at the charity stripe and Maryland escaped with a win in dramatic fashion.