Maryland men’s basketball falls apart in second half, loses 56-53 to Rutgers

COLLEGE PARK — Making it easy doesn’t seem to be in the playbook for Maryland men’s basketball.

Facing the third-worst team in the Big Ten, the Terps labored to a two-point lead at halftime before crumbling in the second half in a 56-53 loss to visiting Rutgers on Tuesday night before an announced 12,866 at Xfinity Center.

The loss was Maryland’s second in a row after Saturday’s 63-54 defeat at Michigan State. It was especially deflating considering the Terps (13-10, 5-7 Big Ten) had owned a two-game lead over the Scarlet Knights (12-10, 4-7) in the win column in conference play.

Maryland faced deficits of 6-2 and 15-8 in the first half before rallying for a 24-22 edge at the break. The team struggled against a Rutgers group that was 1-4 on the road against conference opponents and had been outscored by 8.8 points per game.

One of the few highlights was that Julian Reese avoided the kind of foul trouble that limited him to two points, two rebounds and three assists in 14 minutes in that setback to the Spartans. The 6-foot-9, 230-pound junior power forward, who grew up in Randallstown and graduated from St. Frances, racked up 19 points and 12 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season. He had nine points and seven rebounds in the first half when he played 16 minutes.

The other positive involved fifth-year senior point guard Jahmir Young scoring his 1,000th point at Maryland with 16:51 left in the second half. Young, a Charlotte transfer, became the fifth player in program history to accomplish that mark in two seasons, the third-fastest player in school history to reach that milestone and the sixth player in the NCAA since 2006 to record that achievement at two institutions. With 16 points, 12 rebounds and three assists, he is 46 points shy of registering the 51st 500-point season in school history.

Fifth-year senior small forward Donta Scott chipped in eight points in the 137th start of his career. He broke a tie with Steve Blake (1999 to 2003) for the most starts by a player in program history and added to his record of 152 career games at Maryland.

The Terps continue to lack consistent rhythm on offense, as they missed 16 of 18 shots from 3-point range. Young hit their only two 3-pointers (on four attempts), while Scott (0 of 5), freshman small forward Jamie Kaiser Jr. (0 of 4), senior point guard Jahari Long (0 of 3), and senior small forward Jordan Geronimo (0 of 2) combined to go 0 of 14.

In the first half, Maryland missed nine of its 10 shots behind the 3-point line and was mired in droughts of 5:39 and 4:05. The 4:05 rut contributed to the team digging itself into a 6-2 hole less than four minutes into the game.

A dunk by Geronimo ignited a 6-0 run in 1:49 that gave the Terps an 8-6 lead, but the aforementioned 5:39 drought opened the door for Rutgers to score nine unanswered points and regain a 15-8 advantage midway through the period.

After battling back to take that two-point lead into halftime, Maryland continued to struggle, sliding into droughts of 2:25 and 3:28. The second one allowed the Scarlet Knights to break a 37-37 tie with seven unanswered points.

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Rutgers eventually enjoyed its biggest advantage at 52-43 with 2:56 left in the game, but the Terps scored eight consecutive points to narrow the gap to one with 65 seconds remaining thanks in part to a techincal foul on sophomore guard Derek Simpson that gave Maryland two free throws and the ball.

Redshirt junior shooting guard Jeremiah Williams’ layup with 34 seconds left helped the Scarlet Knights regain a three-point cushion at 54-51 before Scott replied with a layup of his own seven seconds later. Senior small forward Mawot Mag drained a pair of free throws with 17.9 seconds remaining.

Maryland tried to get Young free for a game-tying 3-pointer, but Rutgers forced him to give up the ball. Scott’s heave was off the mark and a tip-in attempt missed before the final buzzer sounded.

Mag paced Rutgers with 15 points and three rebounds, and redshirt junior shooting guard Jeremiah Williams compiled 14 points and five rebounds. The Scarlet Knights (12-10, 4-7) picked up their second consecutive win.

Rutgers improved to 4-6 in College Park and registered its second straight victory over the Terps and fifth in the past seven meetings. The Scarlet Knights also claimed back-to-back road wins for the first time since defeating Wisconsin and Penn State on Feb. 18 and Feb. 26, 2023, respectively.

This story will be updated.

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