Playing on the road continues to be unkind to the Maryland men’s basketball team.
For the fourth time in as many games away from the friendly confines of Xfinity Center in College Park, the Terps faltered and looked flat in a 65-53 loss to host Indiana in the Big Ten opener for both sides Friday night before an announced 17,222 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana.
Fifth-year senior point guard Jahmir Young scored a game-high 20 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough to prevent Maryland (4-4, 0-1 Big Ten) from matching the program’s worst road game-opening stretch since 1986 when that squad also began the season with four consecutive setbacks. The program is now 1-10 in conference games on the road under coach Kevin Willard.
Sophomore center Kel’el Ware paced the Hoosiers (6-1, 1-0) with 18 points and 14 rebounds for his third double-double of the season despite playing without starting redshirt senior point guard Xavier Johnson (left foot). Indiana collected its third straight win and fifth victory in the last six meetings with the Terps, who slipped to 6-4 in Big Ten openers.
Here are three observations from Friday night’s loss.
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So much for that optimism about the offense.
After Maryland scored 103 points in a 27-point demolition of Rider on Tuesday night, its most explosive output since thumping Marshall, 104-67, on Nov. 23, 2018, there was some hope that the offense had found its rhythm. Friday night was a reminder of the quixotic nature of sports.
The Terps opened the game with a pair of turnovers, a missed shot and a layup by Young to trail 8-2 by the first media timeout with 16:31 left in the first half. They later had to slog through scoreless droughts of 2:10, 3:14, 2:53 and 2:33 that allowed Indiana to enjoy a 15-point advantage at 39-24 with 2:08 remaining. In the second half, the offense was mired in droughts of 2:27, 3:59 and 2:35.
Willard noted that the team missed some chances in transition for easy points. He also praised the group of Young, junior power forward Julian Reese, senior small forward Jordan Geronimo, freshman shooting guard DeShawn Harris-Smith and freshman small forward Jamie Kaiser Jr. for playing the kind of defense that shut out the Hoosiers in the final 3:17 of the game.
“That’s the defensive energy we need to start the game on the road,” he said. “We’re letting our offense kind of really dictate our defense, especially on the road.”
And 3-point inaccuracy reared its ugly head again. By halftime, Maryland had connected on only 1 of 8 attempts from behind the arc, while the Hoosiers went 3 of 6 from deep. The Terps finished 2 of 16 (12.5%) from long range.
Maryland just can’t seem to find its touch on the road. In four away games, the offense has averaged only 54.3 points, which is nearly 29 points fewer than its 82.8 average in four games at Xfinity Center. The unit has shot 33.6% (74 of 220) on the road compared with 48.5% (112 of 231) at home.
After Tuesday night’s win, Willard said his confidence in the offense had never wavered. It might be time to revisit that sentiment.
Maryland forward Donta Scott (24) goes to the basket against Indiana forward Mackenzie Mgbako (21) during the first half Friday night in Bloomington. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Maryland was bothered by Indiana’s size, and that’s cause for concern.
Aside from 6-foot-9, 230-pound junior power forward Julian Reese, the Terps’ undersized frontcourt can get dwarfed by opponents. That was evident against Indiana.
Ware, an Oregon transfer, used his 7-foot, 242-pound frame to convert eight of 11 shots often on uncontested short-range attempts in the lane. He was aided by 6-8, 217-pound freshman small forward Mackenzie Mgbako, who compiled 13 points, six rebounds and three assists, and 6-9, 233-pound sophomore power forward Malik Reneau, who racked up 11 points and four rebounds.
Indiana outrebounded Maryland, 46-30, including 15-10 on the offensive glass. The Hoosiers converted those opportunities into a 14-8 lead in second-chance points. At one point during the first half, the Big Ten Network showed a replay of Reese screaming in frustration and imploring his teammates to crash the boards after Indiana had collected an offensive rebound and cashed in with a putback.
“Even from the offensive end, their length and size, we hadn’t seen that,” Willard said. “When you go up against it for the first time, that kind of rattles you a little bit, too. And I thought some of our offense around the rim, their blocked shots. We missed a lot of fastbreak opportunities. … I think nerves played a little bit into it. I think seeing size like that for the first time plays a big role into it, too.”
The conference is littered with talented big men, including No. 1 Purdue’s 7-4 Zach Edey, No. 24 Illinois’ 6-9 Dain Dainja and Michigan’s 6-9 Olivier Nkamhoua. The Big Ten portion of the schedule won’t get easier for the Terps.
Jahmir Young and Julian Reese got little help from their teammates.
Besides Young, Reese contributed 14 points and eight rebounds. Maryland got little else from the rest of its roster.
Fifth-year senior small forward Donta Scott scored only two points on 1 of 8 shooting and recorded nearly as many turnovers (two) as rebounds (three). Senior small forward Jordan Geronimo, who returned to Indiana after transferring in the offseason and had averaged 12.7 points and five rebounds in his last three starts, went scoreless on 0 of 5 shooting, grabbed four rebounds and turned the ball over three times.
Freshman shooting guard DeShawn Harris-Smith overcame a quiet first half to finish with nine points on 4 of 9 shooting, and senior backup point guard Jahari Long came off the bench to score eight points. But Willard was critical of the veterans’ plays.
“We did some things to start the game that just, it makes you scratch your head what some guys are thinking and what some guys are doing,” he said. “I don’t mind a freshman going out there and missing and doing some stuff, but we have some older guys right now that are doing stuff that you’re like, ‘What are we doing? You can’t do that.’”
After pointing out that Indiana senior shooting guard Trey Galloway (12 points, six rebounds and six assists) “outplayed and outhustled” some of his experienced players who were “standing around,” Willard said, “If that’s the way it’s going to be, well then I’m going to make some major changes.”
Penn State at Maryland
Wednesday, 7 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 105.7 FM