Terrapins stumble and fall short

Second-half comeback not enough as No. 3 Villanova prevails, 95-86

Maryland's Landon Milbourne (four points) takes on all Villanova comers at the BB& T Classic.
Maryland's Landon Milbourne (four points) takes on all Villanova comers at the BB& T Classic. (Tracy A Woodward/the Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 7, 2009

Senior guard Eric Hayes had no way of knowing his three-point basket would immediately precede a two-minute offensive drought that doomed Maryland on Sunday night at Verizon Center. But as Hayes stood outside the Terrapins' locker room in the moments following the team's third loss in four games, he was well aware of the stretch that prevented Maryland's comeback attempt from achieving its objective.

"We just couldn't make a shot in that span of three possessions, and you know, it just hurt us," said Hayes, who finished with 20 points. "We couldn't get over that hump."

Indeed, the Terrapins trimmed No. 3 Villanova's 11-point halftime lead to three with more than 13 minutes remaining, but that was as close as they could come. Maryland made defensive stops on three straight Villanova possessions following Hayes's three-pointer, but the Terrapins' offense stalled at the most inopportune time.

Villanova (8-0) held off the Terrapins, 95-86, in the nightcap of the BB&T Classic, denying Maryland (5-3) its last opportunity to collect a signature nonconference win. Sophomore guard Sean Mosley and freshman forward Jordan Williams put forth valiant efforts, keeping the Terrapins in contention at times during another sluggish start. But despite a second-half resurgence, Maryland could not catch up to its Big East foe.

"I feel as though we laid back and let Villanova control the tempo of the game by getting second and third shots, which they did today," said Mosley, who tallied a game-high 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting. "It was tough for us to bounce back from that."

Though Villanova entered the game shooting 34.2 percent on three-pointers, the Wildcats made 11 of their 22 attempts from beyond the arc in the first half against Maryland. Guards Scottie Reynolds (Herndon) and Corey Stokes made a combined 7 of 11 three-pointers before intermission. Reynolds finished with 25 points.

Maryland opened the game in man-to-man defense, but switched to a 3-2 zone after Villanova's barrage of first-half three-pointers fell. When the Wildcats did miss, they frequently were able to provide themselves additional scoring opportunities by controlling the boards. Villanova outrebounded Maryland on the offensive glass, 23-7, and outscored the Terrapins in second-chance points, 29-10.

"That's tough," Hayes said when asked whether it was the poor defensive rebounding or Villanova's hot shooting touch from beyond the arc that did his team in. "It's a push, because some of those threes they got off of offensive rebounds."

That Maryland trailed by only 11 at halftime was a tribute to the play of Williams and Mosley, who scored a total of 22 points before intermission. They were the only two Terrapins to make more than one shot from the field in the first half. Williams finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds.

Though a glance at the halftime score would not have indicated as much, Maryland shot the ball well in the first half, making 52 percent of its attempts. However, due to an unusually high number of first-half turnovers (11), the Terrapins did not have as many opportunities to score as did Villanova. The Wildcats tallied 19 points off of turnovers before the break.

Though the identity of this Maryland squad is not yet completely formed, one component of its DNA is an ability to transform -- in nearly every necessary way -- at halftime.

Out of a Maryland timeout 29 seconds into the second half, the Terrapins embarked on a 19-7 run that pulled them within three points. All but two of Maryland's points during that stretch came off the hands of Hayes and Mosley.

Following Hayes's three-pointer to close the gap to three, Villanova called a 30-second timeout. Over their next three possessions the Wildcats missed three shots and committed a turnover. But the Terrapins proved equally ineffective on offense, missing three shots of their own.

The final miss came after senior guard Greivis Vasquez stole the ball near midcourt. He surged toward the basket, but missed the ensuing layup.

"Sometimes the rush of the moment, you know, you make the comeback, you're right there, and it's really hard to get over the top," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said. "You see that a lot where teams come back and they just can't get over the top. That's what we ran into tonight."

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