Maybe it was the season-opening adrenaline or the big, bright lights of an ESPN-televised game in Brooklyn, N.Y., but the Maryland basketball team came out flat in the first half against No. 3 Kentucky and entered the break down 49-36.
Alex Len paced the Terps with 16 points and seven rebounds, including six on the offensive end, but Maryland shot just 30.2 percent from the field and was 0 for 11 from three-point range.
The Terps were up 9-7 early after a thunderous Len dunk off a Pe’Shon Howard feed, but the defending national champion Wildcats went on a 12-3 run that pushed the lead to 19-12, ultimately surging to a double-digit margin on two three-pointers by Kyle Wiltjer, Kentucky’s lone returning contributor, off the secondary break in transition.
Nick Faust had nine points but was 3 of 12 from the field and 0 for 4 from beyond the arc, while the Terps have gotten zero bench points. Dez Wells, two days after the NCAA granted the Xavier transfer a waiver appeal to play immediately this season, shot just 1 for 7.
Kentucky, meanwhile, was shooting 58.1 percent from the field and made 5 of 7 three-pointers. Archie Goodwin had a team-high 11 while Wiltjer has 11. Highly touted freshman recruit Nerlens Noel got into foul trouble early, but sent the Barclays Center crowd into a frenzy with a monstrous block. The Wildcats got 17 bench points, including seven from Julius Mays.
Maryland’s defense, which looked strong in rotation early on, grew more porous as the half wound down, allowing easy penetration and layups. When the Terrapins collapsed into the lane, Kentucky’s shooters stepped into wide-open three-pointers.
Considered timid on the offensive end by Coach Mark Turgeon throughout his freshman season at Maryland, Len has asserted himself, putting on a show for the national audience. His team, however, has lagged behind.