Fatts Russell put a shorthanded Maryland team on his back, scoring 24 points along with nine rebounds and six assists, but the Terrapins’ most inspired effort of the season and an upset bid at No. 3 Purdue fell short Sunday afternoon, 62-61.
“I thought we did some things well enough to give us a chance to win. I loved their effort. I loved their moxie,” Maryland interim coach Danny Manning said. “We didn’t get the outcome that we wanted. But that effort and moxie gave us a chance to compete with one of the better teams in the country.”
The Terrapins gave Purdue an unexpected fight throughout and led by as many as 12 in the second half. Yet, the Boilermakers rallied to tie and took the lead in the final minute. After turning the ball over with seven seconds left, an attempted layup by Maryland forward Donta Scott was blocked by Purdue’s Trevion Williams to take a potential victory away from the Terrapins.
“I thought Dante got fouled,” Manning said. “I have to go back and look at it, but the first one that I saw, I thought there was some contact.”
Maryland (11-14, 3-11 Big Ten) was without guard Eric Ayala for the first time this season due to a hand injury. Ayala was on the bench with his teammates during the game and wasn’t wearing any visible wrap or brace on either of his wrists.
“Eric came to me before the game and said that he didn’t feel right, didn’t feel comfortable,” Manning said. “We’ll get some tests run, and we’ll make sure that we can give him peace of mind with the medical evaluation, and we’ll go from there.”
Guard Sasha Stefanovic had 17 points, including five made threes, to lead the Boilermakers (22-4, 11-4). Maryland held likely NBA lottery pick Jaden Ivey scoreless in the first half and only 11 points on 2-of-9 shooting. After giving up 110 points in a loss to Iowa on Thursday, Manning put his players through an intense film session, one which Russell said helped set the table for Sunday’s performance.
“We had like a two-hour long film session, just going in on bad effort, bad body language,” Russell said. “Our guys huddled up and decided that we was going to change that, and from now on, we’re going to just try to keep that intensity.”
Russell started the game with back-to-back threes to key a 10-0 run and stake out a 10-4 Maryland lead. The Terrapins were helped by an unusually slow display from the nation’s top offensive efficiency team — Purdue only scored 4 points in the game’s first four minutes and shot 3-of-11 from the field.
Russell led in the absence of his backcourt mate Ayala, hitting a pretty reverse layup from an outlet pass to boost the Terrapin lead to 18-15 midway through the first half. He finished the half with 10, as Maryland led for 15 of the game’s first 20 minutes.
“I knew I was going to have to be at least a little more aggressive, control the game,” Russell said.
But the Terrapins went cold to end the half, not scoring a point in the final 4:28 and turning the ball over five times. That allowed Purdue to close the half on a 7-0 run, with five of those points coming from Stefanovic to give the Boilermakers a 26-23 halftime lead.
After holding Purdue to its lowest first-half total of the season, Maryland came out of the locker room with a determination and energy previously unseen after halftime this season.
“We can play with anybody, as you guys can see,” Russell said. “Every ranked team that we played against, we take them down to the wire.”
Led by Russell, the Terrapins opened the half on a 17-3 run, with the Rhode Island transfer knifing his way through the Boilermakers defense for four points while facilitating the ball to his teammates in transition for open shots.
Maryland’s lead grew to 12 at its largest point, 48-36, with 11 minutes left. Purdue’s offense then finally kicked into gear, as the Boilermakers used consecutive threes from Stefanovic and Eric Hunter Jr. to rip off a 14-0 run. The Terrapins didn’t help matters by turning the ball over three times in the stretch and fouling Ivey, whose five foul shots helped Purdue take back the lead, 50-48.
The teams traded buckets in the final six minutes, with Russell accounting for eight of Maryland’s final 10 points. But Ivey turned it on when Purdue needed it the most, finishing an and-one layup with 13 seconds to go, and the Boilermakers escaped a game in which they were favored by double digits.
“We’ll go back and watch film, but we’ll be able to find a few things that we can create momentum from this game and just have to figure out a way to do it every possession and get the outcome that we want,” Manning said.