Maryland’s comeback efforts fall short in 58-55 loss at No. 3 Purdue

A furious second half comeback attempt saw Maryland basketball within a basket of tying the game at No. 3 Purdue on Sunday, but their dreams of a season-changing win fell short as Jahmir Young’s deep three-point prayer missed to give the Boilermakers a 58-55 victory.

In a first half where Maryland (12-7, 3-5 Big Ten) seemed clearly outmatched by the dominant frontcourt of Purdue (19-1, 8-1 Big Ten) and National Player of the Year candidate Zach Edey, the second half was a completely different story, as the Terps showed grit and toughness clawing their way out of what was once a 16-point deficit. In the end, Maryland held Purdue to its fewest points of the season.

“I think the effort was great, we had our chances with a couple good looks in the second half,” Willard said. “I thought all the kids both teams played their hearts out… it was a great college game.”

“If we could figure out how to play our second halves and our first halves we would be a really good road team,” he added.

The three-point shooting was what nailed in the coffin of the potential comeback, as Maryland yet again struggled to get anything going from beyond the arc, going a dreadful 3-21. The Terps missed four three-pointers in the final minutes which would have tied the game.

Where they lacked in three-point shooting they made up for in defensive intensity and a collective offensive effort during the comeback attempt. After struggling to get anything going in the first half in what looked like would be a sure blowout, the halftime adjustments by Willard proved to be a difference maker.

The constant rotation between the matchup zone and man-to-man defense led to eight second half turnovers for Purdue and allowed Maryland to create breakaway opportunities and run in transition.

“I thought we really did a good job of getting [Purdue] to take a lot of shots that they aren’t used to taking,” Willard said. “I thought we did a good job of not letting them be so fluid.”

“I thought we found a way to fight back and that’s what I’m seeing from this basketball team, that they are getting back to what we were early in the season with our fight and with our intensity level on the defensive end,” he added.

Jahmir Young was at the forefront of this improved defensive effort, collecting three steals and constantly pressuring the opposing ball-handling guards.

Young – who was held scoreless until the 14:44 mark of the second half – was able to combat his shooting struggles by staying engaged through his defense and playmaking. While his 10 points on 4-18 shooting was much lower than his season average, he was able to control the offensive flow and create plays for his teammates by attacking the rim and drawing defenders. He finished with a team-high seven assists.

Purdue was led by Edey, who had 24 points and 16 rebounds in another commanding interior performance.

Similar to the matchup against Michigan, it seemed like Maryland’s defensive goal was to send multiple bodies at Edey on every touch to get the ball out of his hands and force others to score.┬áDespite this, Edey and the Boilermakers got out to a fast start on Sunday, leading 20-7 and disrupted Maryland’s rhythm on both ends of the court.

Edey’s counterpart was Maryland’s Julian Reese, who did not back down from the challenge of guarding the potential All-American.

Reese played one of his best games in a Maryland jersey on Sunday, scoring 19 points on an efficient 8-11 shooting and stayed out of foul trouble for the most part while guarding Edey. The 19 points scored by Reese are the most he has scored in a Big Ten game in his young career.

“I think the last two games, the way he battled, and I think the offensively the way he has played too has given us a good boost,” Willard said of Reese. “I think he’s playing with more offensive confidence.”

While foul trouble has plagued Reese’s season and career – as he leads the Big Ten in fouls per game – he was able to manage this on Sunday and log 34 minutes.

He picked up two quick fouls on Edey at the 13:35 mark of the first half and sat briefly, but was quickly re-inserted after backup Caelum Swanton-Rodger also committed two fouls. This led to Purdue extending to a 35-21 halftime lead.

After the break, Maryland was clearly the aggressor to start the second half. The Terps scored the first seven points and started 5-8 from the field after halftime, looking nothing like the struggling squad of the prior 20 minutes.

The ability to score then allowed Willard to implement the full-court press to disrupt Purdue’s offensive timing. The press worked effectively, as the Boilermakers were constantly beginning their offensive sets with 15 seconds or less on the shot clock. Because of this, Maryland was able to cut into the lead and eventually brought it to within single digits.

A Reese jump-hook at the 3:47 mark trimmed Purdue’s lead to three, but turned out to be the teams final field goal as the Terps went 0-7 down the stretch.

Late free throws from Young made it a one-point game, but free throws by Braden Smith increased the lead to three and forced Maryland to go the length of the court in 3.9 seconds, where the final attempt was missed by Young.

Despite the loss, Maryland showed serious toughness in a hostile environment. The lack of three-point shooting is where a game like this could have potentially gone the other way.

“This is a great environment,” Willard said. “It’s really one of the top four environment’s I’ve been in. For us to have the calms and the nerves to come back against an excellent-coached basketball team, I just think we’re getting used to [road games].”

Maryland returns home against Wisconsin on Wednesday, the first of three straight at the Xfinity Center.

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