As Jahmir Young struggles, starters pick up the slack for win vs. West Virginia

In a game where Jahmir Young finished with a season-high six turnovers and just the second time this season he’s made one or fewer field goals, Maryland was able to do just enough to move onto round two following a 67-65 win over West Virginia.

After Joe Toussaint’s three pushed West Virginia’s lead to 16-4 just nine minutes into the game, Maryland was ice cold from the floor with as many turnovers as shot attempts. Young, meanwhile, struggled with three turnovers in the first five minutes as the Terps eventually found their barring. “Everybody has butterflies in their stomach coming out first game,” Julian Reese said after the win. “Especially against such a physical team that we’re not used to from a different conference.” Maryland settled in midway through the first half as an 18-6 run over the next five minutes gave Maryland its first lead of the day, highlighted by a three from Young.

“I think it’s one thing to practice against that defense for a couple days. It’s another thing to all of a sudden see a Coach Huggins’ defense live,” head coach Kevin Willard said after the win. “For anything, it was just getting him to kind of calm down, see it. We have total confidence in him. And I think once he kind of saw it and everybody saw it, it was like a boxing match. He got hit a couple times, and I think it just relaxed him. He was able to see it. And I thought he was pretty good the rest of the game.”

But after taking a two-point lead into the locker room, West Virginia stormed out of the gates to open the second half. Don Carey would extend Maryland’s lead to 38-31, but a 16-0 run over a three-minute stretch quieted Maryland once again. The problem? Young, who had just one foul at the break, picked up three fouls within the first seven minutes. Jahari Long and Ian Martinez stepped into the rotation while Julian Reese picked up the scoring slack, adding 13 of his 17 points in the second half.

“I feel like we came into the game knowing they were a physical team but the start of the team we underestimated their physicality,” Reese added. “They were able to push us off our plays and not letting us to run our offense. As the game went on, Coach made the adjustments and we were able to adjust and make the right plays and make the right decisions and get back on defense and match their physicality over ours.”

With the game tied at 54, Young would check back into the game shortly before Hakim Hart’s fastbreak layup gave Maryland the lead for good. Young helped Maryland close the game out with three free throws over the final 1:36, but it was his final miss at the line with four seconds left that gave the Mountaineers one last chance to pull out the win. After the halfcourt heave came up short, Maryland breathed a collective sigh of relief as they now await Alabama in Birmingham on Saturday after Willard’s first tournament win as the Terps’ head coach.

“I’m more excited for the kids than I am for me,” Willard said of the milestone. “This group, I’ve talked about a lot. This group, they have come together, they have asked to do everything that I’ve asked them to do. They have had a great attitude. They have had an unbelievable work ethic. You know, we have been down all year at certain points in the game. They have never turned on each other. They just have a great attitude. We practiced yesterday morning at 9 a.m. for close to two hours. And they were upbeat, they were positive. So I’m more excited about this group, Jahmir is a transfer in, Don comes in, transfers in. Ju, Hawk and Donta stay. It’s not easy putting together a group that’s going to be so together. But, you know, you have to give credit to these young men. They have worked hard and they have had a great attitude, and I’m just excited for them.”

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