Maryland men’s basketball rallies past Michigan, 64-57, as Donta Scott fuels second-half charge

COLLEGE PARK — Even Maryland men’s basketball’s recent wins have become laborious.

Against a depleted Michigan opponent missing its leading scorer, the Terps stumbled to a 12-point halftime deficit before rallying in the second half to escape with a 64-57 victory over the visiting Wolverines on Thursday night before an announced 12,007 at Xfinity Center.

Fifth-year senior small forward Donta Scott led the charge with 20 of his game-high 22 points in the second half. He went 6 of 10 from the field, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range, and made all four of his 3-point attempts in the latter frame. Junior power forward Julian Reese contributed 14 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks and three steals for his seventh double-double of the season.

Fifth-year senior point guard Jahmir Young amassed 12 points, five assists and five rebounds, and freshman shooting guard DeShawn Harris-Smith added 10 points, five rebounds and three assists to propel Maryland (10-6, 2-3 Big Ten) to its first win of 2024. The team ended a two-game losing skid that included setbacks to No. 1 Purdue (67-53) on Jan. 2 and Minnesota (65-62) on Sunday and avoided its worst start in the conference since the 2021-22 squad opened with a 1-4 record.

Scott downplayed the notion that his performance in the second half was the team’s turning point.

“I don’t really feel like I lifted them up. I feel like they lifted me up,” he said. “Once I got going, the energy started kicking in, and then everybody started feeding off of my energy. That’s when we started going. We were getting better and better on defense, and then the offense started coming to us.”

But as the season has shown, hardly anything comes easy for the Terps, who won for the first time after trailing by double digits at halftime since Feb. 26, 2020, when that squad turned a 47-31 deficit into a 74-73 win at Minnesota. They needed overtime to outlast Penn State, 81-75, on Dec. 6, overcame 10 missed free throws to turn back pesky Nicholls State, 73-67, on Dec. 19, and used a career-high 37-point explosion from Young to pull past UCLA, 69-60, on Dec. 22.

The Terps nearly squandered an opportunity against a Michigan team missing some significant offensive punch after Wednesday night’s announcement that sophomore point guard Dug McDaniel — who entered Thursday ranked seventh in the Big Ten in scoring at 17.8 points per game — was suspended for the team’s next six road games so that he could “work toward meeting several academic goals he has set and needs to meet,” coach Juwan Howard said in a statement.

Instead of overpowering the Wolverines, Maryland slipped into what has become its customary practice of finding very little offense in the early stages. Droughts of 6:27 and 3:24 opened the door for Michigan to turn a 15-13 deficit into a 25-15 lead that it would nurse for a 33-21 advantage at halftime.

The Terps mounted their comeback in the second half, outscoring the Wolverines 23-11 to knot the score at 44 midway through the period — the game’s first tie since 15-15 with 7:02 left in the first half.

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Scott gave Maryland its first lead of the game since 15-13 with 7:46 left in the first half when he hit a 3-pointer for a 49-48 advantage with 7:56 remaining. He then connected on another three and followed a three by freshman small forward Jamie Kaiser Jr. with a running hook shot across the lane to lift the team into a 58-51 lead.

Michigan responded with six straight points before two free throws each by Young, Reese and Scott closed out the victory for the Terps.

Graduate student power forward Olivier Nkamhoua, who entered the game ranked eighth in the conference in scoring at 16.8 points per game, paced the Wolverines (6-10, 1-4) with 18 points and seven rebounds. Senior small forward Terrance Williams II, who grew up in Clinton in Prince George’s County, scored 10 points.

But they couldn’t prevent Michigan from dropping its fifth game in a row and sliding to its worst start in the Big Ten since the 2010-11 squad opened that campaign with a 1-6 mark.

Michigan appeared to be one of the few opponents Maryland could chalk up as a win in what might be an increasingly difficult search for optimism in the rest of its Big Ten schedule. The slate includes upcoming matchups with No. 10 Illinois (11-3, 2-1) on Jan. 14, Northwestern (12-3, 3-1) on Jan. 17, Nebraska (13-3, 3-2) on Jan. 27, the Fighting Illini again on Feb. 17, No. 15 Wisconsin (12-3, 4-0) on Feb. 20, the Wildcats again on Feb. 28, and Indiana (11-5, 3-2) on March 3.

Last winter, the Terps opened their conference schedule at 1-3 before rallying for a 10-6 record to finish 11-9 and in a tie for fifth place in the league. Thursday night’s outcome sparked some life into the players that a similar finish is within reach.

“I felt like we kind of had a realization moment,” said Reese, a Randallstown native and St. Frances graduate. “We were kind of taking them for [granted]. We weren’t coming out how we were supposed to and how we were practiced and how we prepared. I feel like getting the situation turned around is some good energy going into the next game.”

Willard acknowledged that the game against the Wolverines was one Maryland couldn’t afford to waste.

“We’re pretty much in a must-win in everything,” he said. “The beginning of the season kind of put us behind the eight ball. I also think that this is a team that if we can get better offensively, the way we play defensively is going to give us a good chance.”

McDaniel’s absence on the Wolverines allowed Maryland to concentrate on limiting Nkamhoua, who took 16 shots. A defense that had been tied with Rutgers for the Big Ten lead in scoring at 63.7 points per game and ranked second and third in blocks and steals per game, respectively, outdid those numbers by holding Michigan 24 points below its season average of 81.7.

Nkamhoua, who needed 15 points to reach the 1,000-point milestone, hit the achievement on a short jumper with 8:11 left in the second half.

Maryland at No. 10 Illinois

Sunday, 2 p.m.

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: 105.7 FM