It took a little while for the blades to fully sharpen, but the Kansas buzzsaw eventually emerged Thursday night, cutting down Maryland's chances of cutting down the nets.
The Terps were steamrolled in the second half, outscored by 14 after halftime as their offense fell off a cliff in a 79-63 loss to the NCAA tournament's No. 1 overall seed in Louisville.
Despite sticking with the Jayhawks for the entirety of the opening 20 minutes and even leading by as many as six in the opening period, an inability to make shots in the second half cost the Terps the game. Maryland was just 8-for-23 from the field after halftime, with three separate field-goal droughts of more than three minutes coming over the game's final 20 minutes.
And with only a 40.5-percent shooting performance to its name prior to the half, Kansas was red hot in the second half, shooting a sterling 56 percent from the field, making Maryland's droughts all the more costly.
“I want to congratulate KU, I thought they were terrific, especially in the second half," Turgeon said after the game. "They were aggressive, they made shots, got to the foul line and made shots. They were good. And then they were great on defense. We’re a good offensive team, we’re hard to guard, and they really locked in on us.”
After falling behind by a slight amount early, Maryland took advantage of a more than five-minute scoreless stretch by Kansas, using a 7-0 spurt to burst out to a six-point lead. The two teams played evenly from there and traded leads. Rasheed Sulaimon and Melo Trimble produced much of the offense for the Terps, scoring a combined 22 first-half points as big men Diamond Stone and Robert Carter spent significant time on the bench with two fouls apiece. The Jayhawks ironed out their offensive issues that had them shooting below 30 percent at one point, missing nine straight buckets during that struggle of a stretch. The two teams were evenly matched, statistically, in shooting, rebounding and turnovers in the first half. Maryland's poor shooting from behind the 3-point line, though, continued, and after going 1-for-18 on 3s in a second-round win over Hawaii, it was just 2-for-12 from 3-point range in the first half Thursday.
It was obvious from the start of the second half, though, that Kansas was playing with a different energy and far more effectively, at that. The Jayhawks made their first six shots — extending a streak that dated back before the break to nine straight makes — using a 9-0 run to break away from a 43-all tie and build their biggest lead of the game to that point. That Kansas run coincided with Maryland's first three-minute scoreless stretch of the second half. After Trimble hit a 3 to cut it to a six-point game, the Terps went the next four minutes without a basket, the Jayhawks' lead jumping to double digits during that stretch. The next made shot for Maryland came nearly seven minutes after that, the game all but over at that point. Kansas' electric shooting and lock-down defense allowed it to build a lead as big as 16, which was also the final margin.
“They really locked in," Sulaimon said. "Their team defense was really tremendous. I still think, the way we executed offensively, we still got a lot of the shots that we wanted to have. Down the stretch, we couldn’t make shots, and they did. Sometimes the ball just bounces that way. All credit to them for making the adjustment at halftime. One or two shots, a couple shots we normally make just didn’t fall for us tonight.”
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Maryland finished with just a 40-percent shooting mark on the night, while Kansas shot 46.8 percent, holding big statistical advantages in points in the paint (40-24), rebounding (43-28) and second-chance points (13-5). The Terps were just 5-for-25 from 3-point range on the night and shot surprisingly poorly, for them, from the free-throw line, going 14-for-20.
Jayhawks senior Perry Ellis led all scorers with a whopping 27 points, with three of his teammates scoring in double figures. For the Terps, Sulaimon led the way with 18 points, and Trimble finished with 17. No other Maryland players hit double figures.
The Terps' first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2003 ended with a thud, and there's no telling if Turgeon will be in a similar position next season. Of the five starting players, three are seniors (Jake Layman and Sulaimon) and three more are expected to be candidates to jump to the pros (Trimble, Carter and Stone).
A season of big expectations never reached where people thought it would in the preseason, when the Terps were tabbed as one of the country's best teams. A third-round exit from the Big Dance will be viewed as a disappointment, but losing to these Jayhawks certainly can't be too depressing of an occurrence. Kansas hasn't lost since the middle of January.
“We lost to the best team in the country," Turgeon said. "33-4 now, they’re the No. 1 seed in the tournament, they’re playing really well. They’ve just crushed people lately. And in the end it looks like they crushed us.”