Slow start plagues Maryland, fall in near-upset of No. 3 Purdue

Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland men’s basketball (13-7, B1G 3-5) cut Purdue’s lead to three points after forward Julian Reese hit a jumper with 3:47 left in the game, but the Terps could not a get a three-point shot to fall as No. 3 Purdue (19-1, B1G 8-1) hung on to claim their sixth straight win, a 58-55 victory. 

“If we can figure out how to play our second halves in the first half, we would be a really good road team eventually if we can figure it out,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “I think the effort was great. We had a couple of good looks in the second half.”

With the loss, Maryland fell to 0-5 on the road in conference play, but it was their best road conference play performance in the Willard era. The Terps faced the daunting challenge of slowing down Purdue’s 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey, the frontrunner for the National Player of the Year award. 

While Edey was masterful yet again, Edey’s seven-inch shorter counterpart, Julian Reese, was the Terps’ best player at Mackey Arena, helping the Terps shrink Purdue’s largest lead of 16 midway through the first half to a one-possession game late in the second half. 

The Terps struggled initially, starting the game 4-15 from the field as Purdue built a 25-9 lead. The game looked to be a blowout, as Purdue dominated the glass and the paint. Purdue’s height also put Maryland’s centers in foul trouble. Reese and backup center Caelum Swanton-Rodger combined for four fouls on Edey in just 40 seconds. Yet the foul trouble did not doom Maryland. 

The Terps began slowly chipping away at Purdue’s lead as Reese broke out late in the first half, hitting a couple pull-up jumpers. Reese also drew a foul for a three-point play on a reverse layup that he converted to shrink Purdue’s lead to 33-21 with 1:40 left until halftime.

“I think the way he [Reese] played offensively has really given us a good boost,” Willard said. “He’s playing with more offensive confidence.”

In the first half Purdue outrebounded Maryland 22-12 and scored 18 points in the paint as all nine Boilermaker players to enter scored points, but Maryland flipped those scripts in the second half. 

Maryland made some big halftime adjustments shutting down all the Boilermakers besides Edey, while guard Hakim Hart and Reese played exceptionally well with three fouls. 

The duo spearheaded the Terps’ comeback attempt combining 19 second-half points. Reese laid down two powerful dunks while Hart and guard Jahmir Young showed off their chemistry. Young continued to find Hart up the court on the fast break that Hart turned into layups as the Terps scored 20 second-half points in the paint. 

Young struggled mightily in the first half shooting 0-7 from the field but found a groove to finish with 10 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. 

The Terps’ defense played with more intensity in the second half holding all other Boilermakers not named Edey to just 10 second-half points as the Terps matched Purdue with 18 rebounds in the second half. Though Edey recorded his 16th double-double of the season, finishing the game with 24 points and 16 rebounds, Reese finished the game scoring 19 points of his own as Maryland showed their toughness playing against teams bigger than them. 

After Reese shrunk Purdue’s lead to 56-53, the teams went ice cold from the field, unable to make a field goal the rest of the game. Young had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer, but his final three-point attempt missed the mark keeping the Terps winless in conference play on the road.