Maryland Basketball Dominates Louisville in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

When it rains, it pours. Maryland basketball handed the Louisville Cardinals their seventh straight loss with a 79-54 win in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Donta Scott led the way with 18 points to help Maryland move to 7-0 for the tenth time in program history and remains one of 18 unbeaten schools across the country. Head coach Kevin Willard sees his veteran acclimating to the new pace of play through the early stretch of the season.

“I think he’s getting used to me and getting used to what I want from him. I think he’s getting used to the offense,” Willard said about Scott’s play. “I think they all are. Again, this is a whole new system, so I think he’s playing at a really good pace, and he’s playing with a lot of confidence; The way he should be because he’s worked really hard, and he’s a first-team, All-Big Ten player, and he’s playing like that.”

Maryland basketball put the pressure on the Louisville Cardinals early, causing a bad shot to go up with the clock winding down. On the offensive side, the Terps got points from Jahmir Young, Donta Scott, and Hakim Hart and secured a 13-4 lead five minutes into the first half. Scott had a game-high 18 points, five rebounds, and two assists doing what he does best; picking his spots on the perimeter and being physical in the paint.

In addition to the Terps’ defensive pressure, the Cardinals couldn’t buy a bucket from the perimeter. They missed four of their first few attempts and turned the ball over five times. Turnovers were definitely a weakness the Terps could exploit, given that the Cardinals do that 17 times per game.

One area of concern despite the win was free throw shooting, where the Terps left too many points off the board. Being 14-of-25 (56 percent) from there isn’t going to cut against Big Ten opponents or much better nonconference opponents. Willard spoke highly of the physicality that Julian Reese and Patrick Emilian showed in getting to the line.

“I like the fact that Pat [Emilien] and Julian [Reese] were being physical, getting offensive rebounds. I think they missed 8-of-11, so just gotta sit down with Juju [Reese]. Keep working with him.”

Louisville’s best player, El Ellis, snapped the Terps’ early 13-0 run with nice dribble penetration off of a ball screen and pulled up for the midrange jumper. He’s the guy that makes the Cardinals go, and he needed to have a good game if the Cardinals had a chance at an upset of the No. 22 ranked Maryland basketball team, but Maryland’s defense was largely able to hold him in check on 40% shooting.

Later in the half, the Cardinals were building some momentum, down 23-13. After they made two solid defensive plays on a deflection and caused a shot clock violation, Donta Scott reclaimed control and nailed a routine corner three thanks to efficient ball movement along the perimeter.

Maryland basketball went into halftime with a 37-26 lead. Scott led all scorers with 12 points, followed by Young’s 11 points, four rebounds, and two assists. Ellis had nine points and three of the Cardinals’ eight turnovers. The Terps capitalized on those miscues with 11 points.

“I think Jahmir, that was the best game he’s played so far for us. I think he’s starting to understand his role as a point guard. At Charlotte, he’s more of a combo guard, more of a scoring guard. At this level, Big Ten play, professional basketball, he’s going to be a point guard. I think what I’m seeing is a young man that’s developing very quickly into an understanding of how to play the point guard spot. He understands it’s his energy, not only offensively, but defensively. So I thought Jahmir played phenomenally.”

Willard sees his starting backcourt beginning to understand how hard they need to play on defense, which is newer for them under the current staff. Under Willard, the Terps press full court and switch a lot, so it’s an adjustment.

Before the halftime buzzer sounded, the Cardinals also failed to capitalize off of a missed free throw by Julian Reese. They brought the ball up the floor quickly with time running out. As soon as they got into their half-court set, they passed the ball too much and had to hoist up a bad shot.

Neither team was having good luck from the perimeter. Both teams were a combined 4-of-20.

What adjustments was Cardinals head coach Kenny Payne going to make in the second half? The Cardinals’ defense did make things difficult for the Terps late despite the big lead, but how long was that going to last?

Yet again, the Terps defense shined. Carey stole the ball and nailed a three-pointer at the other end. Two more threes from Scott and Hart prompted coach Payne to call a timeout. The Terps had a 46-28 lead early in the second half.

The Terps were hot from the perimeter in the second half as they knocked down 6-of-11. That also helped them get the ball inside more often and convert.

“I think it’s what’s bogged down our offense a little bit in the first halves is I think we’ve come out a little bit too casual on the offensive end. We’re playing really hard on the defense, we’re getting open looks, and we’re just not playing offense with the same intensity as defense,” Willard said about the shift in shooting efficiency. “I thought in the second half, our offensive intensity was really good. I thought we got [excellent] inside-out threes, but I thought we were a little bit more focused on the offensive end.”

With Maryland victorious in its final matchup of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Maryland will return to action on Friday night to host Illinois to begin Big Ten play. The Illini used a dominant second half to defeat Syracuse 73-44 on Tuesday night.

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