Offense falls apart late, Maryland falls at Minnesota

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Marking their first away game of 2024 and fourth Big Ten matchup of the season, the 9-5 Maryland Terrapins traveled to Minneapolis on Sunday night to face off against the 11-3 Minnesota Golden Gophers. 

Maryland’s last game was also in-conference, a 67-53 loss against No. 1 Purdue in College Park on Tuesday. Minnesota, however, was looking to extend a six-game win streak that started at the beginning of December, with its latest win happening over Michigan on Thursday, 73-71.

Minnesota’s streak advanced to seven with the Gophers beating the Terps, 65-62.

“This team’s got me a little perplexed because we don’t practice that way and we don’t prepare that way,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said in a post-game interview. “We do some things that we just don’t do in practice.”

Maryland’s starters included guards DeShawn Harris-Smith and Jahmir Young alongside forwards Jordan Geronimo, Julian Reese and Donta Scott. For Minnesota, Christie Cam, Elijah Hawkins and Mike Mitchell Jr. were the starting guards with Dawson Garcia and Joshua Ola-Joseph both starting at forward.

Ola-Joseph was Minnesota’s key playmaker in the opening stretch, accounting for six of his team’s ten points before the first media timeout was called five minutes in. Although Maryland started with the lead thanks to a three-pointer from Donta Scott, Ola-Joseph bullied his way through the paint to put Minnesota ahead with two dunks and a layup.

But the Terps maintained a steady scoring streak to retake the lead and get ahead by over 10 points as the first period neared halfway. Starters Reese, Scott and Young led a 14-0 run that forced a timeout from Minnesota with just under nine minutes in the half.

The final five minutes were less than impressive for both teams. Maryland turned the ball over on six straight possessions while making just one of nine shots, and Minnesota made just two of 11 shot attempts in that stretch. The resulting score at the break was 29-22, Maryland. Julian Reese and Joshua Ola-Joseph led their respective teams at the half with ten points each.

Maryland managed 15 turnovers by halftime, tying for its season-high that was reached against Mount St. Mary’s and Penn State earlier in the year. (In the next half, only two turnovers would happen to leave the Terps at a total of 17).

“We gave them almost 22 points off our turnovers on the road, it’s just a little bit perplexing, it’s disappointing,” Willard said.

Maryland’s nine-point lead held sturdy for the first five minutes of the second period, but Minnesota managed a 6-0 run with three pointers from Braedon Carrington and Cam Christie to make it a three-point game. With just under 12 minutes left, a three-pointer from Elijah Hawkins followed to bring on a tie.

But even as Maryland managed to stay ahead by one or two points, the three-pointers kept rolling in for Minnesota. Another three-pointer from Elijah Hawkins brought the score to 47-45 and gave the Gophers the lead for the first time since Ola-Joseph’s scoring run early in the game. 

Julian Reese received his fourth personal foul near the start of the period, resulting in Caelum Swanton-Rodger to take his place at the start of Minnesota’s comeback. After watching Minnesota make a 23-11 run to retake the lead, Willard substituted Reese back in the game with eight minutes left. 

“When [Reese] went out, that was huge,” Willard said post-game. “I trust him with three fouls, I did last year, but that fourth one was just a bad call

Soon after Reese’s substitution, Maryland hit a lengthy scoring drought that spanned over six minutes, and in this duration Jamie Kaiser Jr. earned his fifth foul to become disqualified. With 22 seconds left on the clock, Reese would eventually join him on the bench.

Despite clutch three-pointers from Donta Scott and Jahmir Young to get the Terps within three points, there wasn’t enough time for another comeback.

Maryland was sent home with the loss but plays Michigan on Thursday in College Park for a chance at redemption.