NEWARK, N.J. — Seton Hall guard Jared Rhoden had just knocked down a mid-range jumper, but it wouldn’t be long before the ball was in his hands once more. An immediate off-ball foul against Maryland men’s basketball provided Rhoden another offensive opportunity, and he caught a pass, turned and banked in a 3-pointer to give the Pirates a 14-point lead early in the second half.
Just after watching his trey carom off the backboard and through the hoop to cap off a five-point trip, Rhoden threw his arms up and shrugged. The shrug was likely him saying, “I’ll take that” rather than, “How?”
But the latter question likely floated through the minds of the No. 7 Terps. How did the offense go without a field goal for over 10 minutes? How did the Pirates control the game despite being without their top two scorers?
Lastly, Maryland (10-2, 1-1 Big Ten) was forced to ponder how it dropped a second consecutive game to an unranked foe while walking off the Prudential Center floor, suffering a 52-48 loss to Seton Hall on Thursday night.
“We don’t even look like the same team we were three weeks ago,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “I don’t know what to tell you. We didn’t execute very well. … we’ve got to get better at a lot of things.”
Seton Hall (7-4) was five days removed from a 20-point loss to in-state rival Rutgers, losing guard Myles Powell to a concussion in that game. Powell — who averages 21.2 points per game — joined forward Sandro Mamukelashvili (10.9 points per game) on the injury report, leaving the Pirates without their two top scorers.
The Terps, meanwhile, had nine days to reflect on their loss to then-unranked Penn State and form a plan to rebound.
But despite being short-handed, and short on rest, Seton Hall jumped out to an early 13-4 lead as Maryland’s offense struggled to a four-minute scoring drought.
“No game’s going to come easy. I mean, they were missing two of their really, best players,” guard Aaron Wiggins said. “No team’s ever going to lay down.”
Guard Anthony Cowan’s 3-pointer finally broke the spell, but it failed to ignite a spark. The offensive deficiencies intensified throughout the first half, especially during the team’s 10-minute stretch without converting a field goal.
The Terps missed nine shots, including three from the paint, and turned the ball over eight times in that span.
On a night when Maryland’s 7-foot-2 center Chol Marial was dressed and available for the first time this season, it was the Pirates’ two 7-foot-2 presences in Romaro Gill and Ike Obiagu who shined.
Whichever center was looming in the paint, the Terps faced immense difficulty trying to convert over the duo, which combined to swat away 12 shots in the game.
“If [you’re] gonna go down there, you better know what [you’re] going into,” Pirates guard Quincy McKnight said. “They did a tremendous job.”
Seton Hall’s lead swelled to 15 points before guard Eric Ayala converted a 3-pointer from the corner to end the drought. Cowan followed with a triple on the next offensive trip, and forward Jalen Smith threw down a dunk to finish the half.
The three straight buckets to end the half helped Maryland climb within single digits at 27-18, a fortunate position for the Terps given the long stretches of ineptitude and 10 turnovers — a problem that surfaced in a second consecutive game after 20 miscues against Penn State on Dec. 10.
“We didn’t execute,” Cowan said. “We just didn’t do what we was supposed to do.”
After halftime, Rhoden converted the five-point series, taking advantage of an off-ball foul to nail a 3-pointer on the extended trip. His sequence put the Pirates up by 14.
Similar to its loss to Penn State, Turgeon’s team kept battling back in the second half but never closed the gap within a possession before Seton Hall reeled off a spurt to create separation again.
Maryland had one last push, as a layup from forward Donta Scott pulled the Terps within three points with 40 seconds to play. After Seton Hall succumbed to Maryland’s press and committed a turnover, Turgeon set up a play with his team trailing by three.
But guard Darryl Morsell’s ensuing inbounds pass went right to guard Anthony Nelson and helped Seton Hall stave off Maryland’s final push, handing the Terps their second straight loss to an unranked team after a 10-0 start.
“We’re highly disappointed as a coaching staff and as a team [with] the way we played tonight,” Turgeon said. “Sometimes you’ve got to hit rock bottom. I don’t know if it is rock bottom — we’ll see — but if it is, then maybe we’ll come back and be a little bit better.”