Takeaways from Maryland men’s basketball’s loss to Tennessee

Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Despite the Terps’ abysmal first half, they finished the game shooting better than the Volunteers. Maryland shot 32.7% while Tennessee shot 28.8% from the field. Here are some takeaways from No. 13 Maryland men’s basketball’s (8-2, B1G 1-1) second straight loss. 

Following the two-loss week, Maryland dropped to No. 20 in the latest AP Poll.

Freshmen seeing action 

With the Terps struggling to score buckets, head coach Kevin Willard decided to mix it up, subbing in the team’s two true freshmen in the first half. 

The Terps’ two true freshmen had not seen that many quality minutes, but both center Caelum Swanton-Rodgers and forward Noah Batchelor entered the game in the first half. With Tennessee dominating the Terps, Willard put in his 6 ’11 center, Swanton-Rodgers, with about six minutes left in the first half. 

Batchelor entered the game with 1:32 left in the first half contributing a defensive rebound and two made free throws before starting the second half. 

They combined to play nine minutes before the rest of the starters broke out in the second half.  

Jahmir Young continues to shine, Maryland’s best player

Guard Jahmir Young continues to appear unfazed from the transition of playing basketball at Charlotte, a mid-major to the Big Ten, putting up big numbers no matter the arena. Young has consistently been one of Maryland’s best players, and that continued at the Barclays Center. 

Young was the only Terp to score double-digit points and made sure to get his teammates involved. The Charlotte transfer dished out a new season-high seven assists, all coming in the second half, finding guard Hakim Hart twice late to keep Maryland’s chances alive. 

The Terps’ point guard was able to drive to the basket scoring multiple layups and providing a spark that made the game interesting late. The Terps turned to Young on their final two possessions in a one-possession game, but Young could not get his jumper to fall and air-balled a game-tying three-point attempt at the buzzer on a night the Terps struggled mightily from deep.

“Just trying to get a good shot for our team to win,” Young said. “Unfortunately they didn’t fall, but I really wasn’t thinking about the last one [against Illinois], you know, I was just trying to win the game.”

Maryland showed toughness and resilience 

The score seemed much closer than the game appeared. Maryland struggled mightily at the start of this game, finding themselves trailing by 21 with 1:49 left in the first half.

The Terps flipped the script in the second half, slowly chipping away at Tennessee’s lead. After sitting for much of the first half in foul trouble, forward Julian Reese returned for the start of the second half and immediately made an impact. 

Reese grabbed some defensive rebounds and forced a steal before finding his groove five minutes in the second half scoring back-to-back baskets to keep Maryland’s deficit at 13. 

The Maryland native added his second steal a few minutes later and turned the Volunteers’ turnover into a layup to make it a single-digit game with 8:42 left. 

Reese also laid down a critical dunk to shrink Tennessee’s lead to 51-48 off a beautiful no-look pass from Young for the assist. 

Forward Donta Scott and Hart also contributed nine points, with all of Scott’s field goals coming in the second half, helping jump-start the rally. 

Good free throw shooting from Maryland 

Maryland got into the bonus with six minutes remaining in the first half and over eight and a half minutes remaining in the second half. The physical game put three Volunteer starters in foul trouble enabling the Terps to make their comeback. 

That free throw shooting helped keep the Terps afloat in the first half. Nine of Maryland’s 17 first-half points were from the free-throw line. Overall, Maryland shot 77.3% from the free throw line, only missing five shots there, keeping themselves in the game.

Tennessee’s defense is legit 

The Volunteers entered the Barclays Center as one of the best defensive teams in the country, holding opponents to 51.2 points a game, the second lowest in NCAA. Tennessee has held opponents to 32.7% field goal shooting percentage and 21.6% from beyond the arc, the second lowest and top numbers in the country. 

Maryland shot 32.7% from the field and scored slightly more points than Tennessee’s average courtesy of making 17 free throws. 

Maryland shot 2-24 from beyond the arc, with 16 three-pointer attempts coming in the first half. The Terps generated open looks from beyond the arc, but its shots were not falling all game. 

“We have to win the three-point battle,” Willard said. “We’ve lost the three-point battle the last two games. That is why we lost…we are just not going to physicality anybody, that’s not the way we are built.”