Maryland sleepwalks through Asheville, fall to UAB, 66-63

In the consolation game of the Asheville Championship, Maryland basketball needed a win to capitalize on an early-season opportunity to find some sort of rhythm on both ends of the floor.

After a lackluster shooting performance in Friday night’s narrow loss to Davidson, the Terps failed to sustain any offensive consistency after a strong first half yet again and came up short against UAB, 66-63.

The Achilles heel of Maryland basketball’s 2022-23 campaign was its inability to rely on outside shooting on a consistent basis. While it was only the second game of the season, a 5-for-23 showing from beyond the arc on Friday night caused even more speculation about whether or not this problem was addressed in the offseason.

On Sunday, the three-point shooting of Maryland looked promising in the early stages as the Terps knocked down three of their first seven. In the ensuing 25 minutes, the Terps shot 3-of-16 from long range and were unable to change the narrative.

In the first half, Maryland used a 16-4 extended run to build a 27-16 lead. Seven different Maryland players scored in the first half, including 14 points from its bench.

Jamie Kaiser Jr. and Jahari Long chipped in five points and one made 3-pointer each in the first half.

As the Terps pulled ahead, it was their defensive intensity that stifled any UAB scoring threat. The Blazers went 1-10 during Maryland’s 11-0 run and looked out of sorts on the offensive end. UAB shot just 33% from the field in the first half.

Maryland’s strong start began to fade late in the half, and the Terps were held scoreless over the final four-plus minutes.

UAB was led by guard Eric Gaines, who converted several Maryland turnovers into easy transition baskets. The Blazers turned nine first-half Maryland turnovers into 12 points, as the Terps became sloppy with the ball in the later stages of the opening half and allowed UAB to trim the halftime deficit to six at 30-24.

“The two [turnovers] in the first half really changed the momentum of the game,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “I thought we were dominating, really playing well defensively, and we had three turnovers which led to six points and just kind of kept them hanging around in the game.”

Gaines finished with a game-high 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field while controlling the pace throughout the second half.

Out of the break, more Maryland miscues allowed UAB to jump in front. The Blazers outscored the Terps 20-6 to open the second half, using an extended 15-2 run to take a 46-36 lead.

After a scoreless first half, UAB guard Alejandro Vasquez was the aggressor for the Blazers. His 14 points provided UAB with a major jolt, especially at the free-throw line, where he went 8-8.

On the interior is where UAB took advantage of the Terps, outscoring Maryland 38-30 and knocking down 21-of-23 free throws.

Trailing 57-45 with under eight minutes remaining, a late surge by Jahmir Young and DeShawn Harris-Smith gave Maryland some life. The pair combined for nine points in the final stages to allow Maryland to trim UAB’s lead to four.

With the Blazers leading by three with under 10 seconds to go, Harris-Smith air-balled his three-point attempt and the Terps came up just short for the second time in three days.

Harris-Smith and Young combined for 27 points on 9-of-25 shooting from the field.

All of Harris-Smith’s 13 points came in the second half.

“I think I’m seeing guys get a little more comfortable out there,” Willard said. “[Our rotations] are still, I think, a major work in progress when we get in foul trouble. They went small on us, that’s two times in a row that the small lineups have hurt us.”

After a disappointing performance for Donta Scott in Friday’s loss, the senior forward chipped in 13 points on Sunday, knocking down two of Maryland’s six 3-point attempts.

Junior forward Julian Reese was held to only one field goal in Sunday’s game before fouling out with 3:08 remaining. He was never able to find a rhythm against the UAB zone and was virtually non-existent offensively.

UAB outscored Maryland 42-33 in the second half to take control of the game. The Terps shot 10-of-30 and missed five free throws during the stretch. The Blazers did this while shooting only 1-for-9 from 3-point range, which only emphasizes their paint dominance.

Maryland falls to 1-2 with the loss, after entering the Asheville Championship as the favorite to come out on top and the highest-rated team, according to KenPom. The Terps will travel to No. 22 Villanova on Friday, Nov. 17.

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