The venue and opponent changed, but the result remained the same.
Maryland lost 76-65 to Xavier in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday in an eerily similar fashion as its defeat to Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals almost one week ago.
After holding a slim lead at half and a short burst after the break to build a medium-sized advantage, it all came crashing down.
The Terps allowed 14-unanswered points in the middle of the second half during a scoring drought stretching more than five minutes to give Xavier a lead it would not relinquish.
The second half brought back bad memories for Maryland fans, who remember a similar set of circumstances sending their team home early in the first Big Ten Tournament played in Washington, D.C.
After holding junior guard Trevon Bluiett to three points in the first half, the sharpshooter exploded in the second, scoring 18 points and making his first six shots after halftime.
Maryland’s star couldn’t replicate the performance. Melo Trimble finished with 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting, including a 1-of-9 mark from beyond the arc, in what could have been the junior’s final game as a Terp.
The loss puts an exclamation point on what has largely been a rough six weeks. After starting the season a program-best 20-2, Maryland lost seven of its final 11 games.
Both teams had a rough go from the field in the game’s opening stages, but the shooting woes stuck with Maryland longer. The Terps missed eight of their first nine 3-point attempts, playing right into the hands of Xavier’s multiple zone looks.
Maryland was held scoreless for more than three minutes in the middle of the half as the Musketeers went on a 9-0 run to grab a 17-8 lead. The Terps made a run of their own to cut the deficit to two before Xavier responded to extend its advantage to as many as eight points.
Three triples in the half’s final six minutes helped bring Maryland back to within striking range. Melo Trimble finished off the answer with a steal and layup on the other end to give the Terps a 36-35 edge at the break, their first lead since they were up 8-7 eight minutes into the game.
Xavier’s bench made up for Bluiett’s three first half points. The Musketeers’ reserves posted 18 points, outscoring the team’s starters by one. Junior forward Sean O’Mara led the way, putting up 11 of his career-high 18 points in the opening period.
O’Mara’s career day helped mitigate Xavier’s early perimeter woes. When outside shots weren’t falling, the 6-foot-10, 244-pound big man scored on the interior. He didn’t miss until his sixth attempt from the floor with almost four minutes to play in the game, too late for the Terps to outlast.
Maryland ends the season 24-9 (12-6). The Terps will lose seniors Damonte Dodd and L.G. Gill to graduation but likely return most of their remaining rotation. Now begins the questions of Trimble’s future and a long eight-month wait for the ball to bounce again on Gary Williams Court.
Edited by Maggie Gottlieb.