Maryland entered Thursday night’s game at Indiana on a two-game roll, playing its best basketball of the Big Ten schedule. But while guard Fatts Russell continued his sensational February, the rest of the Terrapins struggled to match him.
Russell led Maryland with 23 points. Indiana, however, shot a blistering 75% in the second half and made 13-straight field goals at one point en route to beating the Terrapins, 74-64.
“It’s no secret that making that making that many shots you’ve got to become a lot tougher, especially when you’re playing on the road,” Maryland interim coach Danny Manning said. “In the environment, with the energy of the crowd, you have to find a way to get stops. And we didn’t do that.”
Russell was 5-of-9 from three-point range and finished one shy of his season high in points. The Rhode Island transfer has scored 108 points in Maryland’s last five games.
“He gave us a chance to have some kind of success in a tough environment,” said Manning, who was vocal both during and after the game about his team’s lack of free-throw opportunities.
“It’s just mind boggling to me that [Russell]’s a top 10 free-throw shooter in this league, shoots 21 shots, and not shoot one free throw.”
“I was just trying to keep my team in it,” Russell said. “I felt like we were lacking some scoring in certain parts of the game, so I just tried to be ultra-aggressive to try to keep my team in it.”
Guard Hakim Hart was the other bright spot for the Terrapins, finishing with 14 points. Guard Eric Ayala got his first start since Feb. 10 against Iowa, but only managed a lone three-pointer in the first half. He and forward Donta Scott struggled, shooting a combined 4-of-18 for Maryland (13-15, 5-12 Big Ten).
“Towards the end, I just felt like we missed a couple of defensive assignments,” Hart said, “and they just scored a lot in the paint.”
Indiana guard Xavier Johnson led all scorers with 24 points. Forward Race Thompson added 19 and pulled down nine rebounds. Forward Trayce Jackson-Davis added 10 for the Hoosiers (17-10, 8-9), who snapped a five-game losing streak.
Russell and Scott picked up where they left off in the second half of Monday’s win against Penn State, pacing the Terrapins with 10 of Maryland’s first 14 points.
Indiana used its bigs, Thompson and Jackson-Davis, to get its offense rolling underneath. The Hoosiers took a 20-15 lead as Maryland went without a basket for a three-plus minute stretch in the middle of the first half. All but four of those Indiana points were in the paint.
Hart drained a three to get Maryland within a bucket, 20-18, but went cold again for another six minutes. In that stretch, the Terrapins committed four turnovers and missed six straight shots. Indiana used the drought to power ahead to a 10-point lead, even with Jackson-Davis sitting with two fouls.
Leave it to Hart, though, to drag the Terrapins out of the scoring wilderness. A three to end the drought, followed by two foul shots after he was intentionally fouled by guard Tamar Bates, and Maryland only found itself only down three at halftime, 27-30.
The Terrapins tied the game after a kickout by center Qudus Wahab to Hart, who knocked down a three to open the second half. But turnovers bit the Terrapins again, and three of them helped fuel an 8-0 Hoosiers run and another lead, 38-30.
Both teams then ripped off a combined stretch of consistency with 17-straight made field goals. For Maryland, that featured Julian Reese’s most significant action, with two exclamatory dunks and six total points. It also included nine points from three for Russell.
“I think his comfort level is pretty good right now in regards to understanding what Big Ten play is about,” Manning said of his point guard. The length and athleticism of the bigs that are at the rim, and him picking and choosing when to go make something happen and when to facilitate and get teammates involved.”
The Terrapins cooled off, though, and the hot hands of the Hoosiers just didn’t miss. Indiana shot a blistering 75% in the second half, including a 13-in-a-row stretch from the field. That built the lead to 12 and put Maryland — which never led in the game — away.
“It comes down to defense,” Manning said “We weren’t stout enough with our defensive intensity, and they got comfortable, especially in the second half, making shots.”