LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Farther into the tournament than the program had been in 13 years, Maryland had an opportunity to beat the nation’s No. 1 team for a spot in the Elite Eight.
But as has been the case in the Terrapins’ biggest games this season, they looked to be an equal, they competed early and they fought, but ultimately had the door slam shut on them in the second half. Thursday night, it ended their season -- a 79-63 loss to the Kansas Jayhawks in Louisville.
Maryland played a strong first 20 minutes and was within two points at the half, but there were some signs of cracks in the foundation. They again shot poorly from three-point range. Foul troubled had forced them to dig deeper into their bench than they ever would have liked in this spot. They uncharacteristically struggled from the free-throw line. Melo Trimble had gone cold from the field.
Against a Kansas team that is full of veterans and is the favorite to win the national title, it’s just far too difficult to absorb those blows and win a game in March. Perry Ellis was the engine for the Jayhawks, scoring 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting.
Trimble finished with 17 points, but on 5-of-16 shooting from the floor and 1-of-7 shooting from three. Rasheed Sulaimon had a team-high 18 points.
Here are five things you need to know.
1) Came to play early, especially defensively
Maryland has a (good) habit of playing its best basketball against their toughest opponents. That seemed to be the case early against Kansas. Offense wasn’t necessarily there through eight minutes, but the Terrapins were locking down defensively and closing out defensive possessions with rebounds.
Kansas was shooting 22 percent from the floor through eight minutes.
2) Rasheed Sulaimon the offensive firepower
While Maryland was defending and getting stops, it sputtered at times on the other end. Rasheed Sulaimon was huge in giving the Terrapins at least something. He was 4-of-6 from the floor and 2-of-4 from three in the first half.
Guards help you more than anyone else to win games in March. Sulaimon, with help from Melo Trimble, had 22 of the team’s 34 points at the break.
3) Maryland survives the first-half foul trouble
Robert Carter and Diamond Stone were both on the bench with two fouls before the under-four timeout of the first half. That forced Mark Turgeon to use a lineup that he had all but previously abandoned, putting Michal Cekovsky and Damonte Dodd on the floor at the same time.
The best Maryland could have hoped for was to hold the fort and they did. There is very little flow to the offense when both are played together and the lane becomes clogged, which is why Turgeon had spread them out in the past. They were solid defensively, though. Maryland trailed by two, 36-34, at the half.
4) The turning point
After a monster Jake Layman dunk that tied the game at 43-43, Kansas rattled off a 9-0 run to push the score to 52-43. Stone picked up his third foul early in the second, which forced more of the Dodd-Cekovsky lineup.
Through the first eight or so minutes of the second half, Kansas had outrebounded Maryland 10-1. The Terrapins still hung tough for a time by cranking up the defensive pressure. At the 10:30 mark, it was a single-digit game. Maryland kept it that way for nearly four minutes with the way they defended, but simply could not chip away at the deficit.
As veteran-heavy teams do, Kansas eventually took advantage. A 10-point Kansas lead was 16 in a matter of minutes and the Jayhawks had slammed the door.
5) The end of a season
A Maryland season that began with a No. 3 preseason ranking ends in the Sweet 16 at the hands of a Jayhawk team that was ranked one spot below them in that same Associated Press poll.
It will be debated how the story of this season will be written, whether these Terrapins will be labeled underachievers or whether they ought to be remembered as the team that ended a 13-year Sweet 16 drought for the program.
It also remains to be seen what next year’s roster will look like. Those questions will be answered in the coming weeks.