Feature photo courtesy of UMTerps.com
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — On days when the Maryland Terrapins men’s basketball team had games throughout the season, Terps players, and eventually also fans, splattered social media with posts referring to game day as, “love day.”
For the Terps, Thursday began as their 36th love day of the season. A duel with the No. 1 overall seed Kansas Jayhawks awaited No. 5 seed Maryland.
But when the buzzer sounded at the KFC Yum! Center, Kansas had defeated Maryland 79-63. The final “love day” of the season was over, and the Terps were eliminated in the Sweet Sixteen.
“We lost to the best team in the country,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “…They’ve just crushed people lately. And in the end, it looks like they crushed us.”
Though the game concluded as a lopsided affair, the first half told a different story.
“I feel like we were right there,” Turgeon said.
Maryland trailed the No. 1 team in the nation 36-34 at halftime. In the first half, Maryland was able to defend Kansas well. On the season, Kansas was shooting 49.6 percent from the field. In the first half, Maryland held the Jayhawks to a 40.5 percent clip from the field and 20 percent from three.
While Maryland also struggled from downtown, making just 2-of-12 triples, they stayed competitive on the boards, recording 20 to Kansas’ 21 rebounds in the first 20 minutes.
At halftime, guards Rasheed Sulaimon and Melo Trimble led the Terps on offense with 12 and 10 points respectively. Down by two points, the Terps believed they could pull off the upset.
“Everyone was hyped,” forward Damonte Dodd said. “We came in, we said yeah, win the half, win the game. We just fell short.”
While the Terps fell short in the second half, forward Perry Ellis and the Jayhawks pounced. They outplayed the Terps in the second half, widening their rebound margin from plus one to plus 15.
The Terps’ performance on the boards in the second half more closely resembled their rebounding output for the season. Entering the game, Maryland ranked 220th in the country with an average of 35.3 rebounds per game. They finished the game was 28 boards, snagging the ball off the just eight times in the final 20 minutes. Kansas also saw success offensively in the paint, outscoring the Terps 40 to 24 inside.
Forward Landen Lucas posted a double double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Ellis led the all players with 27 points. The performance marked his seventh 20 plus point game in his past eight.
“[Ellis is] playing with a lot of confidence,” Turgeon said. “I didn’t think he forced things tonight. We knew he was driving right and we still couldn’t guard it.”
In the second half, Kansas shot 56 percent from the field and made 2-of-4 threes. They outscored the Terps 43-29.
Maryland’s guards didn’t see the same success in the second half that they saw in the first, Sulaimon scored six in the second half, while Trimble posted seven.
“Their team defense was really tremendous,” Sulaimon said. “I still think the way we executed offensively, we still got a lot of the shots that we wanted to have. We just – down the stretch we couldn’t make shots, and they did.”
And when the game was over, Sulaimon was in shock, disappointed that the run ended four games earlier than he was hoping for it to. But once the shock passed over, Sulaimon, exiting the court for the last time as a Terrapin, thought of his teammates.
It was his last love day as a player.
“This is not only my last game,” Sulaimon said. “This is our last game as a team.”
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