Maryland “shook a little bit” as concerns grow for Kevin Willard, Terps

Maryland stood no contest to Villanova on Friday night, falling to 1-3 as head coach Kevin Willard noted the Terps were “shook a little bit” in the 57-40 loss at the Palestra.

“I think you gotta give Villanova all the credit. They came out and they jumped us. Two quick threes that really got us on our heels. They got after us. They were coming off a tough loss and really played well. We just didn’t respond,” Willard said. “I’ve gotta come up with something quickly because the lineups I’m putting out there aren’t complementing. So that’s on me.  The offensive struggles are on me.”

After Jordan Geronimo and Noah Batchelor started the first three games, Willard turned to Jamie Kaiser Jr. as the fifth starter though the spark never went off after missing all four shots in 18 minutes.

“I’m searching for that fifth starter, just to be honest with you. I’m searching. I’m failing miserably,” Willard added. “That’s a big spot to put a young freshman in, but I thought he did a lot of good things defensively. I thought he hustled hard. He’s going to go through it for a little bit. But I have confidence in him. He’s working hard. He’s practicing hard. Just trying to complement that starting lineup a little bit. Trying to protect [Julian Reese] with a shooter out there. Just, it really didn’t work out.”

While the sample size is still small, another concern is the Terps’ winless record outside of Xfinity, an eerily similar criticism in Willard’s first season.

“I mean every team’s a little bit different, but yeah, I’d have to agree with you a little bit. I mean, we’re struggling on the road, so. But again, I do think, I thought Nova came out with a very, very intense defense that probably the best they played all year. So I think you have to give them a little bit of credit for coming out and really setting the tone.”

In a game where Villanova led by as many as 32 and led by at least 20 points for the final 27 minutes—until Jahari Long and Noah Batchelor added buckets in the final minute—Maryland never showed any signs of turning it around after shooting 24% from the field and 19.2% from three.

“I think you gotta take the fact that they were on the road for the first time as a unit playing in the Palestra on the road. I think they got shook a little bit to be perfectly honest with you.  Watching the film and they came back and the crowd, this is a tough place to play when the crowd’s into it. They got into it. They fed off it.”

More from Kevin Willard:

On the sense of urgency with three straight loss

“Well, I mean, I think they had a sense of urgency. Again, I think you just gotta give Villanova a lot of credit for the way they came out and played. Sometimes you have to give credit to other people. I think Kyle did a great job and I thought their older guys came out and really played well.”

On message to the team heading into UMBC 

“There won’t be a hangover. I mean, I think the biggest thing is, what I’m looking forward to is getting ten days at home consistently. I think that’s the biggest thing. I mean, it’s not the ideal way, you know, this is, this was a very poor…this schedule has not been conducive to growing this team and that’s, that’s on my fault. Jahmir’s struggles, Julian’s struggles. That’s not their fault, this is my fault. This is a bad schedule and I put it together so I have to fix it.”

On Maryland’s struggle to not force stop

“I think our biggest problem is that we’re just not scoring. So we’re not being able to set up our defense that’s given us a chance to create misses. I think that’s really the biggest thing. We’re playing transition defense a lot more than transition offense. If you don’t score three, four, five times in a row and able to work on your press and get your press against them and you’re constantly playing transition defense, that’s really hurting us more than anything else. The offense is obviously a struggle, but we’re playing transition defense almost the whole game and it’s really hurting us.”

On Hakim Hart’s night vs. Maryland

“I’ve got no comment.”

On how to make sure the team remains confident despite 1-3 start

“We don’t have a whole lot of confidence right now, to be perfectly honest with you, but we’ll get there. Again, I have great confidence in this team. I have great confidence in these players. I thought we’d struggle a little bit. I didn’t think we’d struggle this bad offensively to start. But I do know that where we’ll be at the end of the year. So although I’m worried right now, I have great confidence in these guys and I have great confidence in where we’ll get to. I just think we have to get some sort of rhythm and we haven’t had it. And that’s on me. And I got to figure out a way how to get us back in rhythm.”

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