In a hard fought ACC-Big Ten matchup, No. 4 Virginia (7-0) defeated No. 24 Maryland (6-1), 76-71, in front of a sold out crowd in College Park Wednesday night.
Maryland faced off against their old ACC rival in a top 25 matchup that turned out to be the Terps’ first real test of the season.
Virginia is known for its tough defense year-in and year-out, and this year is nothing different for Tony Bennett’s squad. Before tonight, the Cavaliers had only given up 49.3 points per game this season, which ranked second in the nation.
However, Maryland did a great job handling the tough defense for the most part, shooting 54 percent from the field. This was the first time anyone had scored more than 60 on Virginia this year and only the second time a team dropped 70 points on the Cavaliers in the past two seasons..
The main killer for the Terps tonight was their turnovers. Maryland turned it over 14 times tonight, and compared to Virginia’s two, it isn’t hard to see why Virginia came out victorious tonight.
“We lost to a great team tonight that played at a high level,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. “Only two turnovers against us in this building, shot a great percentage from three and they made a lot of tough shots.”
For Virginia, most of its scoring came from their three-headed monster of junior guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome and sophomore guard De’Andre Hunter.
Guy was on fire all night for the Cavaliers, making five three pointers and ending with a game-high 18 points. Jerome wasn’t far behind with three three pointers of his own and 17 points.
“Him [Kyle Guy] and Jerome, they’re some confident guys,” freshman guard Eric Ayala said. “It’s not really a shot they don’t like and their coach trusts them to make plays at the end of the day and that’s what they did.”
Hunter, Virginia’s leading scorer (16.8 points per game), ended the night with 15 points, including a monstrous dunk over Bruno Fernando.
This trio combined for 32 of Virginia’s 39 points in the first half, and Maryland struggled to hang with them all night.
Three point shooting was also key in Virginia’s victory. The Cavaliers went 10-22 behind the arc tonight, but were 8-16 in the first half, which is a large part of why Virginia was able to jump out to a 39-30 lead at the break.
“They’re a hell of a team,” sophomore forward Bruno Fernando said. “They made a lot of great shots and a lot of great plays.”
Guy came out in the second half and drained a three to make it 42-30 and it look as if Virginia was getting ready to pull away.
With 16:48 left in the second half, Virginia’s lead grew to 17 at 48-31, but the Terps weren’t out of it yet.
An Aaron Wiggins three with 6:03 left cut Virginia’s lead to eight and you could sense Maryland was forming a comeback. Air was brought back into a sold-out crowd at the Xfinity Center and Maryland had life again.
Maryland cut the lead down to four after a Wiggins jumper with 3:17 left, but Virginia kept making shots and free throws, keeping Maryland from closing the gap..
“I think we have heart,” Fernando said. “We never quit and we try to play as hard as we can.”
Wiggins ended the night with 13 points on 5-8 shooting, including 3-5 from behind the arc and the freshman’s performance in the closing minutes to mount Maryland’s attempted comeback was huge for the Terps.
“It’s hard to come back on Virginia and we were able to do it,” Turgeon said. “We fought. Cut it all the way to three, I think that’s a really good sign for us.”
Along with Wiggins, Ayala and Anthony Cowan were in double digits scoring tonight, with 13 and 15, respectively.
Ayala was big for the Terps during the second half run along with Wiggins, making three of his four three point attempts tonight.
“Eric made some big shots for us,” Turgeon said. “Aaron was really nervous in the first half, but I thought the second half he played with much more poise and made some shots. We needed him to.”
Fernando ended the night with his third double-double of the season, coming in with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Maryland also missed six free throws in a game they only lost by five. If this teams want to be successful later in the season they have to be able to convert from the free throw line in close games.
The Terps now have to turn their attention to Big Ten play when Penn State comes to College Park Saturday night. Penn State just upset No. 13 Virginia Tech, 63-62, in their last game.
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