Maryland found twin culprits for its BB&T Classic loss to No. 3 Villanova on Sunday night easily enough. Choosing which one ultimately sank the Terrapins took a little bit longer.
On their own, shaky perimeter defense and anemic defensive rebounding can be overcome. Put them together, and it was a recipe for a loss even as Maryland arguably played its best game in two weeks.
To be sure, the 95-86 score didn’t reflect poorly on Gary Williams’ unranked outfit. Yet it was a product of allowing nearly a dozen 3-pointers in the first half and 23 offensive rebounds for the night.
“That’s tough,” guard Eric Hayes said. “That’s a push. Some of those 3s they got off of offensive rebounds. It’s something where when they’re shooting that well and they miss, we need to get the rebound. Sometimes we didn’t.”
Despite the lapses, the Terps (5-3) can build upon plenty after badgering the Wildcats at times in the second half. Sean Mosley scored a career-high 26 points. Hayes collected 16 of his 20 points in the second half.
Perhaps most impressively, freshman Jordan Williams produced his first career double-double (19 points and 12 rebounds) and shook off his early-season foul line woes to go 9-for-13 on his free throws.
Meanwhile, Herndon native Scottie Reynolds scored 25 points to lead Villanova (8-0) in one of his two homecoming games this season at Verizon Center.
“This is like my Madison Square Garden,” Reynolds said.
And it’s typically a house of horrors for the Terps, who have dropped eight of 10 in the building dating to 2003. But in this case, it had far more to do with Villanova’s strong play than Maryland’s limitations.
To be certain, both were factors. The Terps struggled early to keep pace with Villanova on the outside, chasing after shooters just a bit too late to make a difference. The Wildcats hoisted 22 3-pointers in the first half, made 11 and wound up with a 49-38 lead at the break.
“They were averaging over 20 a game,” Maryland coach Gary Williams said. “They just decided to take them all in the first half.”
Eventually, the Terps shifted into a zone, but that too had its drawbacks. The strategy, though counterintuitive, worked - but at a significant cost.
The Wildcats, who were already collecting more than enough offensive rebounds, suddenly got some more. And whether it led to second-chance points (Villanova had 29) or merely forced Maryland to expend more energy on longer possessions, the effect was the same: The Terps didn’t give their offense much of a chance to remain in the game.
“We didn’t shoot a great percentage against their zone, but sometimes you give up some rebounds,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “They know that. We got to some loose ball rebounds that were big.”
Oddly, though, the Terps nearly wiped out a 16-point deficit in the second half, Hayes and Mosley the main cogs in a comeback to pull Maryland within 61-58. The Terps had three possessions at that score, failing to score each time.
Villanova’s Corey Fisher then made - what else? - a 3-pointer to ignite an 11-1 run.
“If we limit those second shots and try to pressure them more on the perimeter, I think we would have come out with a win tonight,” Mosley said. “But Villanova has great shooters, and they were just hitting wide-open shots. Even though we were flying at them, they were still hitting shots.”
The loss leaves Maryland much to do once ACC play commences in a month. The Terps’ signature nonconference victory likely will be Tuesday’s defeat of Indiana, and they won’t play a power conference opponent again until Florida State visits Jan. 10.
The Terps will look different soon enough. Junior forward Dino Gregory is expected to return from suspension Saturday, and there will be time to sort out a rotation in the next month. But Maryland will need to beat quality teams, rebound and defend the perimeter - all things that could have happened Sunday night but did not.
“I think we can play,” Williams said. “We’re going to have two weeks where we play one game, and I think that’s going to help us.”