Maryland secures signature win, dominates No. 3 Purdue in 68-54 upset win

Kevin Willard has called his fair share of timeouts in the time he has spent as the Maryland basketball head coach. Perhaps none will have the impact of the one he called at the 16:11 mark of the second half of Maryland’s rematch with No. 3 Purdue on Thursday.

After a Zach Edey layup pushed the Boilermakers lead to 37-29, Willard’s timeout was followed by a 32-6 extended Maryland run, as the Terps stepped on the gas and never let up, upsetting Purdue, 68-54, in a raucous Xfinity Center.

“It was definitely a momentum swing,” Maryland guard Jahmir Young said. “…He just told us to all take a deep breath, just to be solid on defense.”

“Sometimes this group just needs a little bit of a reset,” Willard said. “I think they were a little disappointed with the way they played offensively in the first half.”

In only his first season at the helm in College Park, Willard has set the foundation for years to come. Where this began was over the summer, with the work that his players have put in to put themselves in position to accomplish feats like knocking off a top-five team in the country.

“I fell in love with this place in the summertime,” Willard said of Maryland. “I spent a lot of time with coach [Gary] Williams, and hearing what he did to build this place, …we’re going to sustain this, … this is a long-term thing.”

Willard entered Thursday’s game confident that his team was prepared for a game of this magnitude.

“I had no doubt,” Willard said. “These kids have worked extremely hard. … We had three good days of practice this week, so I knew we were going to win. This was not a surprise for me.”

Young, who scored 20 points in the victory, transferred to Maryland with the intention of playing in the NCAA Tournament.

“I told him if he comes and plays for me, that’s what we’re gonna do,” Willard said.

Young also envisioned moments like this, helping his hometown team pull off one of the biggest upsets in school history.

“It was definitely like a dream come true, something that you work for all summer,” Young said. ” … We live for moments like this, … especially just being able to do it at home, it’s just a special moment.”

Maryland students began lining up outside the Xfinity Center hours before Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. tip, anticipating what had the potential of being a historic day.

Thursday marked 10 years to the date of Maryland’s upset of No. 2 Duke in 2013, the final matchup in College Park between the two storied rivals.

The excitement and build-up in the days prior to this big-time clash between Maryland and the Big Ten’s leading squad was similar to those days in the ACC, and as the final buzzer sounded, fans flooded the court to celebrate the team’s first win over a top-five team since 2016.

“I got caught in the action,” Young said of the court storm. “It was hot, everybody was jumping.”

“Somebody was on the backboard, I think,” sophomore Julian Reese added.

Back when it was only the players on the court, the teams traded blows early, with neither side able to find any real offensive rhythm in the first half. Maryland continued its three-point struggles, missing its first four attempts before Patrick Emilien knocked one down at the end of the shot clock to knot the game at 18-18 with 5:55 left in the first half. That was Emilien’s first made three-pointer of the season.

“I thought [Emilien] came in and gave us a huge boost,” Willard said. “He grabbed two huge rebounds, … he came in and gave us 15 monster minutes.”

Emilien, as he has done all season, seemed to make an impact immediately upon checking into the game. His seven first half points allowed Maryland to stay within striking distance as others struggled to score. Maryland shot 31% from the field in the first half.

As the offense struggled, Maryland’s defense kept the game tight, as they doubled Edey on nearly every post touch and forced others to contribute. Edey had eight first half points on 4-7 shooting.

An Edey layup gave Purdue a 26-20 lead with just under three minutes to go in the first half, but he quickly picked up two fouls and gave free-throw opportunities to Young and Reese, which helped trim the Boilermakers halftime lead to only three.

After Purdue began the second half on a 9-4 run, Willard called the aforementioned timeout in an attempt to rejuvenate the intensity that his team has shown all season in home games. It was quickly evident that he picked the right moment, as Young promptly hit a pull-up jumper and – on a rebound attempt after an Edey missed layup – Reese was fouled by Purdue’s Mason Gillis, who picked up a technical foul in the following seconds.

Maryland was awarded two free throws and the ball, a potential four-point swing that could cause the momentum to swing its way. This was the case, as Maryland capitalized on the opportunity and ran with it. Two layups by Reese and an emphatic dunk from Emilien sent the Xfinity Center into a frenzy and gave Maryland its first substantial lead of the night. 

This lead grew, as Purdue went ice-cold from the field, failing to hit a field goal for over seven minutes during the stretch. The Terps went from down eight points to up 17 in what felt like the blink of an eye.

Willard credited the interior effort from Reese.

“He’s very smart,” Willard said. “He understands scouting reports, … the biggest thing for us [was to] make [Edey] shoot a jump-hook. He’s gonna make some, it’s not the end of the world. I think he just made it difficult for [Edey] and he didn’t give him any angles where he got anything easy.”

Edey finished with 18 points, but his dominance was limited by the defense of Reese and Maryland inside. The Maryland run seemed to shock the Boilermakers, as they looked discombobulated and were unable to get anything going on the offensive end while Maryland extended its lead in the deafening Xfinity Center.

“I thought this atmosphere was great,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said of the crowd. “It’s really hard to win on the road. [Maryland] has been really, really good, they’ve been competitive, … [Willard] is doing a great job.”

The Boilermakers have lost three of their last four games, and are only one game ahead of Northwestern atop the Big Ten standings.

Maryland is scheduled to travel to Nebraska on Sunday to face the Cornhuskers.

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