Kevin Willard Breaks Down Maryland’s Loss to Tennessee at the Barclays Center

What a game in the Barclays Center. The No. 7 Tennessee Volunteers squeezed out a narrow victory over the No. 13 Maryland Terrapins, 56-53. Maryland basketball fought back from 17 down at halftime after struggling from the perimeter.

“This team, they’re resilient. They’re a good group to coach. I’m not happy with them right now, obviously, but I’ve learned a lot. I think the biggest thing that we’ve gotta work on is, obviously in game kind of stuff,” Terps head coach Kevin Willard said about what he’s learned about the Terps. “I think we gotta get better at that and just clean up what we want to do and how we want to do it. But I think these guys have shown that they’re a tough group. They’re resilient. They’re an unselfish group. It’s just again, I just think, especially since no one’s been with me for eight years, not having practice time, you rest a little bit. I’m proud of how they’re playing and where we are, what we’ve gotten to. I just need, I need to get back into the practice gym and be able to practice a little bit.”

The Hall of Fame Invitational was an ugly game for No. 13 Maryland basketball early on, but they showed resolve in what was a heavyweight fight down the stretch. Neither team could put the ball in the hoop. The Volunteers used the fast break to get out to a 9-2 lead, and from there they completely took over.

Maryland basketball couldn’t use their inside game to offset their shooting woes from the outside. Each miss from the perimeter was more painful than the last. Julian Reese got into foul trouble, which made the Terps one-dimensional.

It was easy for the Volunteers to close down driving lanes to the basket, and they capitalized off of 10 Maryland basketball turnovers in the first half with 12 points. It’s not hard to see why the Volunteers they’re one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. They had an early 8-1 offensive rebounding advantage.

Jahmir Young and Volunteer guard Santiago Vescovi finished with seven points apiece and were the best players on the floor for both teams. Vescovi, who came back from a shoulder injury, was a menace defensively the entire game.

Kevin Willard and the Terps went into halftime with a 17-point deficit, 34-17, and were looking for answers. He switched things up in the second half and gave Freshman guard Noah Batchelor the start over Hakim Hart. Reese started the second as well.

Although the Terps were down big, 38-23, they showed signs of life with a couple of good baskets inside from Reese. Earlier in the half, Maryland basketball fans made plenty of noise as the Terps began to knock down shots.

Zakai Ziegler hit a three to push their lead to 41-25 as Volunteers head coach Rick Barnes called a timeout. He would go on to hit a few more clutch shots later in the game and finish with 12 points, three assists, and three steals.

Maryland was still battling, and it helps when you get big plays out of Donta Scott, who had withstood contact to make a tough high-arching shot to bring Maryland’s deficit to 14, 45-31.

The Barclay’s Center crowd erupted for the Terps as they went on an 8-0 run to cut the Volunteers’ lead to 45-37. Who made the big plays? Scott, Reese, and Young took charge offensively, and the Terps used their full-court press to frustrate Tennessee.

“We were trying to go with it the whole game. It’s just when you only make three field goals in the first half, it’s tough to press. You kind of have to make baskets to press and unfortunately when you go 3-of-24 in a half, it’s hard to press and wear a team down. I thought we did a better job of scoring in the second half, so That’s what [we did] to stay in it. We disrupted them a little bit.”

With 7:03 to go, the Terps were down four points, 45-41, and gaining momentum as they had the crowd behind them. The Terps also forced seven second-half turnovers by the Vols and took care of the basketball as they gave up only one.

Both teams found themselves in the bonus with five minutes left in this game. Ian Martinez knocked down two free throws to cut the Volunteers’ lead to 48-46. Jamai Mashack responded with a three, and a dunk by Reese kept things close for the Terps. This game was going to come down to who wanted it more. The best way for a basketball game to end.

With 43.5 seconds to go, Willard called his team into the huddle to figure out their next move. Down 55-51, time and opportunity were of the essence. The Terps needed to be smart on both ends of the floor.

A crazy sequence took place after Don Carey missed a three-point attempt. There was a scramble for the basketball and Hakim Hart scored with 24 seconds left.

Young had a golden opportunity to tie the game with a teardrop in the lane but missed and that was the Terps’ last grasp at a victory. He finished with a game-high 18 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks.

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