Maryland makes mistakes time and time again as No. 21 Villanova drums

VILLANOVA, Pa. – The Terrapins’ Jahmir Young hit a three-pointer early in the first half of the Maryland men’s basketball team’s game against 21st-ranked Villanova on Friday night, but the ball missed the hoop completely. This failed attempt led to the entire Finneran Pavilion venue chanting “air ball” every time the playmaker dribbled or received a pass.

Shortly thereafter, Young passed the hoop again, trying to convert a floater in the lane, and the taunting became even louder. The fifth-year senior’s struggles as a senior highlighted Maryland’s overall struggles in a 57-40 loss at the Gavitt Tipoff Games, in which the Terrapins shot 24 percent and had as many turnovers as they made field goals (12).

That disastrous performance resulted in a third straight loss, tying Maryland’s longest skid last season. The Terrapins’ 1-3 record is a stark contrast to how they started the season last season, when they won their first eight games in coach Kevin Willard’s debut.

Maryland last started 1-3 in the 2000-01 season, when it made a dramatic turnaround that led to its first Final Four under legendary coach Gary Williams.

“I think you have to give Villanova all the credit,” Willard said. “They came out and jumped on us. Two quick threes that were really on our heels and coming after us. They were coming off a tough loss and were really playing well and we just didn’t respond. I have to come up with something quickly because the lineups I’m fielding are not compliments, so it’s my fault and the attacking problems are on me.

The Terrapins made just 5 of 26 three-pointers, continuing the recalcitrant shooting from beyond the arc that has plagued them this season. They shot 14 of 62 (22.5 percent) from three-point range and allowed Villanova (3-1) to make 7 of 18 from that distance.

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Center Julian Reese scored a team-high 10 points for the Terrapins, who all but blew a 53-22 lead in the second half with just over eight minutes remaining. Young added nine points on 3-of-10 shooting. Last season, the No. 2 team selected to the Big Ten committed a team-high four of Maryland’s 12 turnovers.

“To be honest, we don’t have a lot of certainty right now,” Willard said. “Once again, I have great confidence in this team. I have great confidence in these players. I thought we would fight a bit. I didn’t think we would have such serious problems offensively at the beginning, but we did [know] where we will be at the end of the year, so although I’m worried now, I have great confidence in these guys and I have great confidence in where we will go.

Tyler Burton scored 15 points for the Wildcats, who went 14-of-19 from the free throw line compared to 7-of-12 for Maryland. TJ Bamba scored 11 points to help Villanova gain a narrow point advantage in the group stage at 22-12.

The first half, which ended in madness shortly after halftime, saw Maryland trail 39-15 and go to the locker room. The Terps shot 4 of 27 (15 percent) from the field, including 2 of 14 from beyond the arc. They committed as many turnovers as they made field goals, and less than five minutes into the game they were losing a double-digit lead.

Five days since Maryland’s last game – the team lost twice in the Asheville (N.C.) championship – gave Willard enough time to revamp his rotation with a lineup that featured three starters from last season and a sizable group of newcomers, including a highly regarded freshman class .

Willard placed two of its most touted freshmen in the starting lineup for the first time, Harris-Smith and Kaiser. It was the third different lineup this season and the first time two freshmen started for Maryland since the 2019-20 season, when Eric Ayala and Jalen Smith started 33 of 34 games.

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Modifying the lineup did little to improve the Terrapins’ fortunes. Kaiser committed his second personal foul midway through the half and missed both field goal attempts in the quarter. Harris-Smith, the reigning Washington Post All-Met Player of the Year from Paul VI, also didn’t contribute much, entering the break 1-for-5 from the field.

The sixth meeting in school history included a meeting with Wildcats graduate Hakim Hart, who spent the previous four seasons at Maryland. Originally from Philadelphia, where he and Maryland’s Donta Scott played AAU basketball, he moved in April to be closer to family.

Last season, Hart set career highs in points (11.4), rebounds (4.1), assists (2.6) and minutes (32.8). The All-Big Ten standout started all 35 games and played a key role in Maryland advancing to the 32nd round of the NCAA Tournament.

Hart came on against his former team early in the first half and quickly drilled a three-pointer from the top of the arc, part of an early 13-2 run. Maryland’s only field goal of the period came on a layup by Reese, and a few minutes later Willard called his first timeout after the Wildcats’ Jordan Longino beat Scott off the dribble for an uncontested layup.

“It’s weird, but you know, I was around [Hart] my whole life, so I just wish him the best and hope he gets everything he wants in the season,” Scott said.


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