Maryland battles Rutgers but get slain by the Scarlett Knights 74-60
Maryland’s basketball team returned home after suffering their first loss of the season against Clemson last Wednesday. They hosted the Scarlett Knights of Rutgers at Xfinity Center for the 6:00 p.m. tipoff. Mark Turgeon and his team were anxious to get back out on the floor and prove they were better than their performance against the former ACC rival this past Wednesday.
However, the Terrapins were facing an undefeated Rutgers team that come in ranked 19th nationally and were the heavy favorites heading into the contest. Rutgers, a team known for its defense, did not allow Maryland to find any comfort at home on the offensive end. Despite Marylands efforts on the defensive end of the court, Rutgers players Ron Harper Junior and Geo Baker stymied any efforts from Maryland to find victory.
In the first half, the Terrapins and the Scarlett Knights tested the mettle of their armor and barricaded the rim on both sides of the court. After an early back and forth battle, Rutgers found a way to trample out on a 10 – 0 run while the Terrapins counter attacked by barraging the Knights defense and put Rutgers into foul trouble early, including putting Harper who was called for his second personal foul with 14:10 to play in the first half. Rutgers then committed its eighth team foul with 12:54 remaining in the first half. While the opportunity was presented, Maryland couldn’t build a significant lead during this stretch.
Geo Baker returned to action for the Scarlett Knights after suffering a high ankle sprain the first game of the season. While he looked slower than normal, Baker began to turn up the heat against the Terps and ended the game with fifteen points and three assists. Eric Ayala would test his ankles by forcing him to defend his speed on the other end, but Baker seemed to regain some strength in his ankle as the game progressed.
Maryland would rally and battle its way back once again. The team relied on its defense to protect its end of the court and slowly grind together a 15 – 4 run to end the half. Despite being down ten late in the first half, missing every shot from behind the arc, and an unnecessary foul that put Rutgers on the free throw line with 3.5 seconds left in the half, Maryland still found itself ahead at halftime 28-27.
In the second half, Steve Pikiell and his team rallied behind Ron Harper Junior who had fresh legs after limited first half minutes and Geo Baker who seemed to be rising to the occasion. While Maryland tried to use the physics of Donta Scott to push the ball towards the basket, Rutgers used team chemistry to orchestrate the ball to leading scorer Harper who strummed his way to twenty seven points, five rebounds and four assists. “He was a problem. He was feeling it up throughout the night.” said Eric Ayala after the game about Ron Harper Jr.
It was the first win for Rutgers at Xfinity Center, their first win in a BIG 10 opener, and the first time they have opened a season with five double digit wins since 1934-35 season. Should this team stay healthy, they will likely have a lot of firsts, including playing in March since 1991.
Maryland could not find consistency from the floor. As a team, Maryland shot only 4-of-20 from distance and 21-of-61 from the field. Donta Scott finished with twenty points and eight rebounds and Eric Ayala finished with twelve points, on 3-of-11 shooting.
Maryland will hope to rebound against La Salle next Tuesday at Xfinity Center at 7:00 p.m.