Jahmir Young couldn’t find a quick shot. Maryland was down by three points with 13.9 seconds to go, so its star guard dished to Donta Scott as the clock ticked away.
Scott took a dribble and faced pressure as he forced a heave from a few feet beyond the three-point line. The shot hit the front iron and would not fall, sealing the Terps’ 56-53 loss to Rutgers on Tuesday night.
It was an ugly offensive outing for Maryland, which shot 31.5 percent from the field, 11.1 percent from three and committed 15 turnovers. The Scarlet Knight’s shooting numbers weren’t much prettier, but they didn’t need to be as coach Kevin Willard’s team turned in one of its poorest performances of the year at Xfinity Center.
“They went zone and we were going to try for a quick two on a backdoor,” Willard said of the Terps’ final possession. “Jahmir saw zone so we kind of broke it off and they did a good job trapping.”
It’s a massive blow to the Terps’ resume, who entered the night needing a near-perfect finish to their season to have a chance at hearing their name called on Selection Sunday.
Both teams got off to evenly slow starts. The Terps and Scarlet Knights shot a combined 6-for-21 and were tied at eight after just more than as many times.
That was just the start of Maryland’s offensive struggles, though, as the Terps then went nearly seven minutes without making a field goal.
“I’m a little perplexed,” Willard said. “ … We’re so lackadaisical on the offensive end. They’re really playing hard on the defensive end, [but] I think we’re almost a little casual on the offensive end.”
Despite that, the Rutgers lead didn’t expand past seven thanks to sound defense from Maryland (13-10, 5-7 Big Ten).
The game remained tight-knit for the rest of the half as both offenses failed to find any sort of rhythm. Both the Terps and Scarlet Knights (12-10, 4-7 Big Ten) entered the break shooting under 30 percent from the field and combined for 19 turnovers.
The teams made just two of their 18 three-point attempts in the first 20 minutes of play.
The uninspiring offensive showing from both teams was also unsurprising. KenPom ranked Rutgers as the conference’s best defense and worst offense entering the night. Maryland slotted in at second and second-worst in those categories, respectively.
Maryland’s only sustained offense came from Julian Reese, who matched up with Rutgers’ All-Big Ten defensive team center, Clifford Omoruyi. Reese, coming off a disappointing performance against Michigan State, had a game-high nine points and seven rebounds in the first half. He was the only Terp with multiple makes.
Omoruyi finished the contest with eight points and three blocks while Reese tallied 19 points and 12 rebounds.
The teams traded baskets early in the second half before Rutgers went on a quick 7-0 to go up five. A Jahmir Young triple with about 13 minutes to go — just Maryland’s second three of the night — snapped that run.
It was the last three the Terps hit. Young finished with 16 points but did so on 3-for-17 shooting. Most of his damage came at the free-throw line, where the fifth-year guard made all eight of his attempts.
Following his three-pointer, the Terps went cold again, making just one basket in the following nine minutes. Good looks were sparse and even when they came, they wouldn’t fall.
The Rutgers lead got as large as nine in that span; an Omoruyi basket gave it a 50-41 lead with just under four minutes to go.
That’s where Maryland’s deficit sat with under three minutes left. It needed a break — and got it when moments later, Rutgers was whistled for a technical foul.
The infraction sparked a 6-0 Terps run, who, in under 30 seconds, cut their deficit to one possession.
But they couldn’t come all the way back, instead falling in another close loss amid a season rapidly nearing a disappointing conclusion.