As Maryland men’s basketball coach Kevin Willard walked off the Xfinity Center court Tuesday night following a 56-53 loss to Rutgers, a disgruntled fan offered his scathing assessment of an uninspired performance that offered another blow to the Terrapins’ flickering NCAA tournament hopes.
“Hey, Willard, that’s on you. Terrible coaching,” he hollered moments after Maryland lost its second in a row and for the fourth time in six games amid more dreadful three-point shooting and disjointed offense.
The Terps (13-10, 5-7 Big Ten) shot 2 for 18 (11.1 percent) from behind the arc, including 1 for 8 in the second half, and 31.5 percent overall. They trailed by nine with less than three minutes to play against an opponent that entered the day 104th in the NCAA’s NET rankings. (Maryland was 78th.)
Maryland got within 54-53 with 27 seconds left on Donta Scott’s driving layup, but Mawot Mag made both ends of a one-and-one for the Scarlet Knights (12-10, 4-7), who prevailed when Scott missed a long, contested three-pointer in the final seconds.
“I’m a little perplexed that we would come out [flat] at home,” Willard said. “And we had some older guys that just seemed not to be — not that they were not ready to play, but again defensively they gave great effort. It’s just offensively — we were so lackadaisical on the offensive end. They were really playing hard on the defensive end, but I think we were almost a little casual on the offensive end, which really hurts us.”
Forward Julian Reese led the Terps with 19 points one game after managing just two in Saturday’s 63-54 loss at Michigan State. The junior made 8 of 10 shots and added 12 rebounds but committed five of his team’s 15 turnovers.
Jahmir Young had 16 points and 12 rebounds but shot 3 for 17 with five turnovers. The fifth-year senior had the ball in his hands during the final possession but was forced to pass when double-teamed on the wing.
The Scarlet Knights used multiple players to guard the second-leading scorer in the Big Ten, contributing to Young’s worst shooting percentage of the season (17.6). He did manage to become the third-fastest player in program history to reach 1,000 points, hitting the mark in his 57th game.
“Quick turnaround, so we didn’t have too much of a scout,” Young said, referring to the limited time for preparation after the Terps arrived back on campus in the wee hours Sunday morning. “… But to be honest with you, yeah, it was a lack of urgency all around, on the bench and from the starters. That’s unacceptable with where we’re at in the season and what we have to do.”
Maryland fell into the bottom four in the Big Ten standings with eight games to play and opportunities dwindling to fortify an NCAA tournament résumé in dire need of help. The Terps, who have two Quadrant 1 wins, have three opportunities to get more, the next coming at Ohio State on Saturday. If they don’t sweep their remaining Quadrant 1 games, the Terps’ path to the NCAA tournament probably will require a deep run in the Big Ten tournament in Minneapolis.
Mag led Rutgers with 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting, and Jeremiah Williams added 14 points and five rebounds.
Maryland led by two at halftime but fell behind by five early in the second half on the heels of the Scarlet Knights scoring seven consecutive points capped by Jamichael Davis’s three-pointer, prompting Willard to call a timeout with 13:03 to play. Young swished a three-pointer out of the stoppage, but with a chance to reclaim the lead, Jamie Kaiser Jr. missed everything on a three-point attempt.
The air ball highlighted the freshman’s struggles despite Willard’s ringing endorsements of his shooting prowess. Kaiser missed all five of his field goal attempts and finished with two points. He has two points combined in his past two games, blunting the optimism that emerged when he scored a season-high 14 in a win over Nebraska on Jan. 27.
But Kaiser was far from the only Terp who struggled Tuesday night.
“Coming off the effort we had against Michigan State, we really struggled coming out at the start of the game,” Willard said. “We just didn’t have a whole lot of energy with the starting group that’s been really, really good for us. They were good defensively, but on offense we didn’t have the same sense of urgency.”