Terps falter late in loss at Villanova
Second-half drought costly in 74-66 loss to No. 7 Wildcats
philadelphia — With a 12-point lead and less than 10 minutes to play, Maryland stood poised Saturday to topple its first ranked opponent of the season and prove that it’s a far better team than its record suggests.
But the signature victory the Terrapins so desperately needed to boost their NCAA tournament resume never materialized against No. 7 Villanova, which parlayed a veteran back court and the passion of a partisan home crowd into a 74-66 victory.
Led by senior guard Corey Fisher’s shooting down the stretch, Villanova (16-1) scored 19 unanswered points to erase the Terrapins’ lead and, with it, any notion of a comeback.
As has been the case all season, Maryland’s fortunes rose and fell with sophomore center Jordan Williams, who led all players with 25 points and 14 rebounds, extending his consecutive streak of double-doubles to 11 games. But when Williams went more than five minutes without taking a shot in the second half, the Terrapins suffered mightily, failing to score a single point during a 7-minute 14-second stretch.
The prolonged drought was both a testament to Villanova’s ability to clamp down on defense and a statement about Maryland’s limited scoring options: During those rare stretches when Williams doesn’t play up to par or is stymied by opposing defenses, Maryland (11-6) struggles to keep pace with its opponents.
Though the Terrapins are improving, they have yet to produce a clutch shooter, and poor free throw shooting continues to undermine their efforts (they were 10 of 18 from the foul line on Saturday). And itmay take another season ormorebefore Coach Gary Williams develops a back court with the savvy of Villanova’s.
That’s what set Maryland apart last
season, with seniors Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes leading the Terrapins to a share of the ACC regular season title and a run to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Saturday’s defeat was Maryland’s fifth to a ranked team this season (following losses to Pittsburgh, Illinois, Temple and Duke). With each loss (all by single digits), the magnitude of the loss of Vasquez and Hayes becomes clearer.
Still, Coach Gary Williams refused to indulge inthe language of despair Saturday, saying at the outset that he was pleased with his players’ effort in their third road game this week.
“We had to really dig deep to play today,” Williams said. “We played at a good level for about 33 minutes. But you know Villanova is not going to go away. You have to make shots when the other team gets hot.
“We still have a chance to have a good year in our league,” Williams added. “We have to do it for 40 minutes rather than 33.”
Despite Jordan Williams’s dominance in the paint, it was a game that underscored the value of veteran guards. And Villanova, which extended its winning streak to 11 with the victory, is rich in that regard, with Fisher, Maalik Wayns and Corey Stokes combining for 48 points.
Apart from Jordan Williams, the only Terrapins to score in double figures were seniors Dino Gregory and Adrian Bowie, with 10 points each.
“We all believed we could win this,” Gregory said. “We just had a mental breakdown. Didn’t make plays we should have made. Threw bad passes. Didn’t rebound.”
Williams hit Maryland’s first three shots while clamping down on Villanova big man Mouphtaou Yarou, who missed all six of his field-goal attempts and scored just three points.
Freshman Pe’Shon Howard (four points, three assists and three turnovers) hit a three-point terrapins er to put Maryland ahead, 33-31, with 3:44 to play in the first half. Williams then hit 3 of 4 free throws to pad the Terrapins’ lead to 36-33 at the break.
Villanova Coach Jay Wright used halftime to focus attention on Williams, who was simply overpowering in the first 20 minutes.
“Look, this guy is single-handedly killing us!” Wright said, pointing to Williams’s 16 points and nine rebounds in the period — nearly half the Terrapins’ totals in both categories.
Nonetheless, Maryland opened the second half with an 8-2 run, and with 9:29 remaining, Maryland led, 59-47.
But it unraveled quickly. Villanova battled for every possession, intercepted careless passes, attacked the boards (finishing with a 43-33 rebounding advantage) and fed the ball to Wayns (22 points) and Fisher (17).
Williams finally snapped Maryland’s scoring drought with a layup with 2:13 remaining, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to five, and Bowie followed with a layup of his own on the Terrapins’ next possession to make it a three-point game. But Wayns’s three-pointer with 1:10 left extinguished Maryland’s hopes for good.
Adrian Bowie (10 points) drives for Maryland, which led by 12 before Villanova went on a 19-0 run.
Villanova’s Corey Fisher (17 points) drives around Maryland's Jordan Williams (25 points, 14 rebounds).