Takeaways from Maryland’s struggles against UCLA

Photo by Maryland Athletics

Maryland men’s basketball experienced its first lopsided blowout of the season on Wednesday at home against UCLA, going down 87-60 with a score that doesn’t reflect how out of reach this game felt from the beginning.

“Every now and then, you get your ass kicked. That’s part of life,” said Maryland coach Kevin Willard. “They kicked our ass today.”

The last time Maryland hosted UCLA was Dec. 1, 1972, when Bill Walton put up 18 points and 28 rebounds en route to taking down the Terps at home, 65-64. The Terps (8-3), who will play UCLA a lot more often once their West Coast counterpart joins the Big Ten, have reason to assume that beatdowns like the one on Wednesday won’t be routine, but they finally succumbed to fatigue.

Maryland has had arguably one of the toughest schedules of any NCAA team the past two weeks, playing three ranked opponents in four games. It took down No. 18 Illinois in spectacular fashion at home in front of a sold-out crowd, stumbled against Wisconsin in the next game in a defensive battle, fell down early to No. 6 Tennessee before its second-half comeback fell three points short, and looked like a team that could use a day off in the rout by No. 16 UCLA.

This game got off to a sloppy start. Both teams missed the first six shots, including four from the Bruins’ side, but the Terps couldn’t make them pay. The Bruins were the first to find their rhythm; their 7-0 run to get on the board was the smallest deficit the Terps would see all game, as they toiled away for 40 minutes without a semblance of coherent offense.

Jahmir Young headlined the Terps’ inadequacies against the Bruins’ quick hands-on defense, coughing up five turnovers while going 0-8 from the field. The bigger Donta Scott failed to assert himself when Young got “jumped,” as Willard referred to UCLA’s defensive strategy. He scored 12 points on serviceable efficiency, but ideally, Scott would take more than eight shots. 

Hakim Hart and Don Carey couldn’t hit from outside, and the Terps showed a consistent flaw in the offense they’ve flexed in three straight losses. Maryland entered the half down 49-20, having shot 2-11 from three, while UCLA shot far fewer long-range attempts on greater efficiency, draining two on six tries. Maryland shot 29.3% from three in its trio of losses, starting to connect only once the game was already unsalvageable.

Turnovers also helped the Bruins jump out ahead early. Young wasn’t the only one whose pockets were getting picked, with the Terps giving up 13 steals, including 11 turnovers in the first half alone. UCLA ran in transition and capitalized all night, collecting 19 points off turnovers, while Maryland only scored four.

Julian Reese missed the second half after being elbowed in the right shoulder, coming out of the halftime break with his shoulder wrapped with ice. Willard referred to this as “cautionary,” but it served as the team’s first injury concern of any kind this season. 

Ian Martinez was one of the only players making any shots before the starters called it a night. He scored a team-high 16 points, hitting four of five 3-pointers, with his rebounding and defense off the bench helping his teammates where they needed it.

“[Ian] getting more minutes might be the norm going forward,” said Willard. He’s averaging 7.3 points per game this season, a career-high in three seasons, with his steal percentage of 2.5% ranking second-highest on the team, above any starter.

The Terps now get the vacation they’ve been desperate for, until their matchup next Thursday. They’ll host the Saint Peter’s Peacocks (5-5). They hope to silence the doubters, but there are still worse places to be than 8-3.

“[This schedule] does get hard…but at the end of the day this is what we signed up for,” said Scott.