Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland men’s basketball falters late, falls to Rutgers, 70-59

Holding on to a slim two-point advantage, Geo Baker lined up a 3-point attempt.

His shot missed off the back of the rim, but he collected his own rebound and whipped a pass across the floor to fellow Scarlet Knight Paul Mulcahy, who drilled the shot and put Rutgers ahead by five.

This sequence would kickstart Rutgers on offense, as it closed the game on a 13-4 run to take down the Terps at home.

Maryland men’s basketball couldn’t put it all together against their Big Ten rival, falling to Rutgers at the Xfinity Center, 70-59.

“We weren’t able to provide enough resistance to slow them down to give ourselves a chance to win a ball game that we played well enough in the first half to give ourselves a chance to win,” interim head coach Danny Manning said. “We didn’t finish the way we needed to.”

Coming out of the gates, Maryland bucked a recent trend of slow starts. After neither team could get the lid off of the basket, the Terps used a 8-0 run to turn a 5-4 advantage quickly to 13-4 just after the first media timeout.

But Maryland’s lead would be short-lived.

After Julian Reese split a pair of free throws to put Maryland ahead 14-6, the Scarlet Knights embarked on an 8-0 run of their own, tying the game at 14.

From there, the two sides took turns with the lead, trading it back and forth, until Maryland imposed itself on both sides of the floor.

Staying active in the passing lanes, Maryland turned multiple steals into transition opportunities, sparking a break-neck 10-0 run to jump out in front 30-21, forcing a Rutgers timeout.

The Scarlet Knights stopped the bleeding, but Maryland continued to keep the pressure on, taking a double-digit lead into the half, 38-27. 

“I thought the first half was pretty solid,” Manning said. “We did some good things. We moved the basketball, we shared the basketball. I thought we did a really good job of getting to the free throw line.”

Eric Ayala led the scoring efforts in the first half for the Terps, notching 10 of his 13 in the game’s first 20 minutes.

Opening the second half, Maryland started out much slower than in the first, making just three of its first 11 shots. While the Scarlet Knights shot a slightly better percentage, making five of their first 15 shots in the second half, the Terps did just enough to keep them at bay.

Eventually, Rutgers found another gear.

Trailing by six with just over ten minutes to play, Rutgers scored on four straight possessions, while also forcing a turnover and a bad shot on the defensive end. Ron Harper Jr. capitalized during the run, nailing back-to-back triples to put the Scarlet Knights in front 49-45, and forcing a Maryland timeout.

Maryland pulled back in front minutes later, thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from Donta Scott and Ayala. But Harper Jr. added another pair of threes of his own in response, his fourth and fifth of the game to put Rutgers up four.

Fatts Russell tied things up at 55 a piece with 3:30 to play, but a layup from Geo Baker and Mulcahy’s three a minute later put the Scarlet Knights ahead by five with just over two minutes to play.

It would be all Rutgers the rest of the way, as Maryland struggled to find any answer on the offensive end. The Scarlet Knights closed the game at the free throw line, saving their biggest run of the game for the end.

Harper Jr. finished the game with 31 points, a new career-high. 20 of Harper Jr. ‘s points came in the second half, as the guard spearheaded the comeback for the Scarlet Knights

With the loss, Maryland dropped to 9-8 on the season and 1-5 in conference play. Despite holding a double digit lead at the half, Maryland was outscored 43-21 in the second half, letting yet another game slip away late.

“As a team, we gotta adapt better,” Ayala said. “Big Ten is tough. No game is gonna be easy and we just gotta go out and compete every night.”