Coach Mark Turgeon got a sense of how Maryland basketball’s night would go from the outset of Tuesday night’s meeting with No. 7 Michigan.
“I mean, first play of the game, we have a layup,” Turgeon said. “We air ball it.”
That play betokened the dismal performance to follow. The Terrapins were blown out by the Wolverines, 87-63, both displaying Michigan’s caliber at the top of the Big Ten while showing how far Maryland is from that level.
An inability to make shots, coupled with the Wolverines’ strong display on both ends, buried the Terrapins early. Here are three takeaways from that defeat, which dropped Maryland to 2-6 in conference play.
Missed chances: If things had gone differently to end the first half, Maryland may have had a chance to climb back into the contest once the second half began. Instead, in the last two minutes of the half, the Terrapins missed several prime opportunities.
Forward Donta Scott — who was a bright spot, finishing with a team-high 13 points — missed an open three from the corner with just over a minute before the break. Then, guards Hakim Hart and Aaron Wiggins missed the front end of one-and-one free throws, wiping four more points off the board. Meanwhile, Michigan’s lead swelled to 17 points.
“It should have been an eight, nine, 10-point game at halftime, and then it’s still doable,” Turgeon said.
Those misses were just part of a paltry offensive effort from the Terrapins, particularly in the first half. Maryland shot 41.2% overall and knocked down just four of 19 three-point attempts.
From the line, the Terrapins converted 56.7% of their free throws — another example of poor shooting at the line playing a key role in defeat. When Maryland lost to Purdue in December, it made just 47.6% of its free throws. In losses to Iowa and Indiana, the Terrapins made about half of their attempts from the charity stripe.
“[Michigan’s] whole deal was to pressure us, and second half we did a better job,” Turgeon said. “We got to the double bonus, we got in the paint more, we just can’t make shots. Couldn’t make layups. But we were a little bit better in the second half. But you know, with all that said, we just make a couple open ones and make our free throws, we’re still in the game at halftime, for as bad as it went.”
Size disadvantage: The last time Maryland faced Michigan, 7-foot-1 center Hunter Dickinson posted 26 points in a dominant display. Dickinson was held in check Tuesday night, though, the product of double teams throughout. He scored three points.
And yet, the Terrapins’ size disadvantage is a storyline again. The Wolverines pulled down 10 more rebounds and took advantage of the openings on offense when Turgeon employed a smaller lineup, attempting to generate offense.
“Give up a lot of size, we can’t score in the big lineup,” Turgeon said. “We go small lineup, we can get open shots. We weren’t making them, but we were getting open shots. Then we couldn’t guard on the other end. So, it’s product of who we are right now, unfortunately.”
Michigan is legit: Even with Dickinson having a quiet night, Michigan found more than enough offensive production from other sources. The Wolverines came out and drilled their first five threes, growing an early lead.
They went on to make 50% of their triples on the night, and forward Isaiah Livers led all scorers with 20 points. When Dickinson was doubled on the post, kick-outs to the wing resulted in plenty of makes.
“They’ve surrounded a pretty good post guy with great shooters, and tonight they found their rhythm early,” guard Darryl Morsell said. “I mean, I think it’s evident how good they are.”
Entering the year, the Big Ten was packed with that looked ready to battle it out for a conference title, be it Illinois, Wisconsin or Iowa. Michigan wasn’t necessarily considered in that top tier, but the Wolverines are making the point now.
They’re 12-1 overall and lead the Big Ten with a 7-1 conference record, appearing to be the team to beat.
“They’re good enough to win the whole thing,” Turgeon said. “Whether they will or not, we’ll see. But, you know, I think they got three or four pros, NBA guys out there. And you know, I think they can win the whole thing.”