Coach Kevin Willard had longed to return home. His Maryland Terrapins had trudged through a difficult early portion of the Big Ten slate with road games and travel days clogging their schedule. But finally the Terps caught a break — three consecutive home contests that would be a chance to revive optimism about Willard’s first season in charge — and they capitalized, capping an impressive three-game winning streak with a defensive masterpiece that took down No. 21 Indiana.
Maryland takes down No. 21 Indiana for third straight win
The Terps earned a 66-55 win Tuesday night at Xfinity Center in perhaps their most impressive showing of the season. The Hoosiers had won five straight, and they lean on Trayce Jackson-Davis, a standout senior and prolific scorer. But Willard’s squad responded each time Indiana (15-7, 6-5) threatened, and the Terps (15-7, 6-5) limited the usually high-scoring Hoosiers.
For the Terps, Tuesday’s win helps quell concerns that they could miss the NCAA tournament. With three games remaining against Big Ten bottom dwellers Minnesota and Nebraska, Maryland shouldn’t have much trouble getting to at least nine conference wins. As for their tournament résumé, Maryland has now toppled three ranked Big Ten opponents — Illinois (No. 16 at the time), now-slumping Ohio State (No. 24) and Indiana.
The Terps shot just 34 percent Tuesday, but they won the game with defense and poise (just five turnovers).
Jackson-Davis, whom Willard described as “the best college basketball player right now,” had been on a dominant run, averaging 23.6 points, 13.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists in January coming into Tuesday’s game. The Terps, with their lack of frontcourt depth and Julian Reese’s tendency to run into foul trouble, seemed vulnerable. But Maryland held Jackson-Davis in check. He finished with 18 points and 20 rebounds — an impressive stat line but not enough to take over.
“I thought it was awesome, man,” Willard said of Reese’s defense on Jackson-Davis. “… He’s a big-time, big-time player. And I think Julian Reese is slowly turning into just as [much of] a big-time player. It just shows you how far Julian has come.”
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Maryland also contained Indiana’s standout freshman point guard, Jalen Hood-Schifino, who missed his first 11 field goal attempts and finished with three points on 1-for-14 shooting. Willard said he thought the Terps’ press was “really effective in helping take a freshman out of a rhythm.” That left the Hoosiers without enough options, and Maryland’s Jahmir Young (20 points) and Donta Scott (19) became the game’s leading scorers instead.
Reese said the Terps “definitely felt disrespected” because they believed Indiana “overlooked” them ahead of its matchup with No. 1 Purdue on Saturday.
The Terps had an eight-point halftime lead, but the Hoosiers cut their deficit to two within four minutes. Maryland responded with a 10-2 run that provided some cushion again, and Jackson-Davis couldn’t muster any second-half heroics. Willard credited several late offensive rebounds for helping the Terps extend their possessions and limit Indiana’s opportunities.
The Terps handled their three-game homestand against Wisconsin, Nebraska and Indiana with poise, assembling this winning streak before they head back on the road in search of their first conference victory away from Xfinity Center. Maryland will have its best chance to reverse that trend when it plays Saturday at Minnesota, the last-place team in the Big Ten.
Here’s what else to know about Maryland’s win:
The Terps, hampered early by 1-for-10 shooting from three-point range, let Indiana take a seven-point lead with 9:18 to go in the first half. After Willard called a timeout, Maryland’s pesky press forced the Hoosiers into mistakes and an offensive slump. From that point until halftime, Indiana made just three field goals, letting the Terps head into the break on a 22-7 run. Maryland had a 10-0 burst during that stretch, which included five Indiana turnovers.
During the timeout, Willard said he jokingly told his players, “If someone would make a shot, that’d make the bald guy real happy.” He thought they needed to relax “because I thought we started off good, and then we missed some shots and we got tight,” he said.
The Terps, despite shooting 35.7 percent in the first 20 minutes, had a 37-29 halftime lead by leaning on their stout defense and ability to get through the half with no turnovers.
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Young’s stellar stretch
Young, a transfer from Charlotte, has thrived as he has become more familiar with the Big Ten. The Terps struggled from three-point range (5 for 22), but he made 3 of 6 and also had success attacking the rim. Young has notched at least 20 points in five of the past seven games and has been integral to Maryland’s turnaround.
The Terps tallied a season-low five turnovers against Indiana, a welcome trend that has persisted through several games. Willard said the team has put the ball in the hands of Young and Hakim Hart more often, and that has led to improvement.
Reese (10 points and 11 rebounds) handled much of the defensive load against Jackson-Davis, but reserve forward Patrick Emilien also contributed to the effort. Emilien played 13 minutes and logged two points, three rebounds and a block.
Another bench player, guard Ian Martinez, scored seven points in 20 minutes and was a key part of Maryland’s energetic defense.