ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Maryland men’s basketball had been getting an earful from maize-clad Michigan fans all game.
After badly missing a three early in the game, “airball” chants followed Eric Ayala all night. But he and Donta Scott thrived under the pressure.
Scott dominated in the score column all game and dropped 19 points against the Wolverines. But Ayala’s night went differently.
After scoring only two points in the first half, Ayala shot out to 22 points in the second — he and Scott combined for 41 of the Terps’ 64 points.
But they were the only Maryland players with significant influence on the scoreboard and their contributions were not enough to compete with Michigan. The Terps fell, 83-64, in a hostile Crisler Arena.
“I mean, we lost by 20. So, you know, I think that’s kinda my focus right now more than myself,” Ayala said of his dramatic change going into the second half. “How much more can I give to help the team?”
Interim head coach Danny Manning broke out a new starting lineup against the Wolverines. Ayala, Xavier Green, Ian Martinez, Scott and Qudus Wahab took the court together to open the game for the first time.
Scott was the only starter with a noteworthy contribution in the score column in the first half. He scored 10 of Maryland’s 19 points and made two threes — nobody else made any.
But his play wasn’t perfect. Scott missed a three late in the first half and crashed the net to get his own rebound. But he failed to capitalize on his second chance to score.
The Terps were plagued by turnovers to start the game. They gave the ball away 10 times and the Wolverines were able to turn that into 12 points in the first half.
“I think whenever you miss shots and turn the ball over, that takes you out of your rhythm,” Manning said.
Ayala looked shaky to start the game despite the high-scoring streak that he maintained in recent games. He had only two points in the first half and no success from three — one of his misses from beyond the arc missed the net severely.
Maryland couldn’t keep up with Michigan defensively, either. DeVante’ Jones, Moussa Diabate and Caleb Houstan each had 10 points in the opening half. Diabate was left wide open under the hoops for two huge dunks on the Terps.
Late in the first half, the Wolverines took off on a 13-0 run — helped by a series of mistakes from the Terps. Fatts Russell stepped out of bounds with the ball and Hakim Hart, Scott and Ayala all missed threes over the three-plus minutes of Michigan’s run. By the time the run was over, the Wolverines were up big.
Jones, Diabate and Houstan combined for 30 of the Wolverines’ 39 first-half points and the Terps went to the locker room at halftime with a 20-point deficit to overcome.
Scott thinks he and his team could improve their gameplay by “trying to have the guys huddle up a little bit more when [they] start seeing stuff slip away.”
“I feel like that would just get guys to focus in more and understand more that, if we don’t change what we’re doing now, the game will get lost early on, then later on,” Scott said.
Scott and Ayala put a dent in Michigan’s lead at the start of the second half. The two traded baskets and combined for 17 points in the first six minutes of the half.
But Hunter Dickinson entered the second half strong for his team. After he dropped only five points in the first, he passed his first-half total just five minutes into the second with a hook shot from under the hoop to put the Wolverines ahead, 53-35.
Dickinson finished the game with 21 points and six assists.
Three other Wolverines — Jones, Diabate and Houstan — also finished with double-digits on the scoreboard.
Maryland continued some of its mistakes into the second half, as well. Xavier Green clocked an early turnover with an up and down foul outside the three-point line.
The Terps were able to move their offense more efficiently in the second half, shooting 62.1 percent from the field as compared to 30.4 percent in the first.
Ayala and Scott led the way in scoring with 22 and 19 points respectively.
Maryland’s third leading scorer was Julian Reese, who knocked down 10 points of his own. He shot four-for-four from the field, two of those baskets being threes. He was the only other Terp to sniff double digits on the night.
Despite some players’ great success, Maryland didn’t get enough power, offensively or defensively, to stop Michigan and it took a 19-point loss.
“Everyone needs to continue to push forward and everyone needs to pull their collective weight and do the things that we need them to do for our team to be successful,” Manning said.