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Terps prove to be worthy adversary for Kentucky

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Terps prove to be worthy adversary for Kentucky

When the game story is written about the Maryland Terrapins heart-stopping 72-69 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats tonight virtually every story will concentrate on Maryland’s woeful 33% field goal percentage and their inabilities to make shots from range.

Ultimately, though, many of the most directional plays in this game were plays that won’t be seen on SportsCenter and will never be quantified on a box sheet and we’ll get to a few of those momentarily

It was a valiant effort, to be sure, and there is no shame in a close loss to the defending national champs in a nationally televised affair. Yet, as the Terps exited Barclay’s Center after the game, each one had their head down as if they each understood that they had just let a golden opportunity slip through their fingertips.

Kentucky had seized a commanding 49-36 lead at the break on the strength of terrific shooting and a Maryland offense that shot a host of bad shots. The Terps were a horrid 13-44 in the first half and that included 0-11 from the three point line. Conversely Kentucky shot 18-31 and a solid 5-7 from three-point land.

A different Terp team emerged from the locker room at the start of the second half and they went on a 23-8 run over the first 11 minutes of the first half to seize a short-lived lead. At that point it became a possession game and sometimes the trick in games like that is to simply make sure you have more possessions down the stretch.

So, back to those subtle, directional plays…with the Terps up two after their run, forward James Padgett missed a contested layup that would have taken the lead to four points and committed a foul on the rebound. Instead of the Terps having their largest lead of the game, Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer (19 points and 6 rebounds in a terrific performance) canned two free throws and the game is tied.

The game went back and forth for the next four minutes to the under four minute media timeout. After Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel missed two free throws, Maryland point guard Pe’Shon Howard rebounded the second miss and turned to go up-court with his team down just 65-63. As he turned, Kentucky reserve guard Jarrod Palson was able to jar the ball out of his hands and throw in an acrobatic left handed reverse layup to put the Wildcat lead at four.

That was the first of three consecutive loose balls that were all collected by the Wildcats in the next sixty seconds and allow them to keep the Terps at bay. Eventually those loose balls led to a 68-63 lead before Maryland would cut into the lead at 1:59 on a tip-in by freshman Charles Mitchell. Those two minutes of empty possessions would prove to be killers for the Terps. They would close to 70-69 inside the ten second mark but two Palson free throws and a poorly executed offensive set by the Terps on the last play of the game resulted in a disappointing loss.

Great news actually came out of this game, regardless of the loss. If, in fact, Kentucky is the third best team in the land then the Terps could well be right behind them. Yes, they are that good and that talented.

Sophomore center Alex Len was the absolute best player on the court by a mile. He fashioned a dominating 23 point, 12 rebound, 4 block performance against a host of talented Kentucky bigs.

Freshmen Jake Layman, Seth Allen and Charles Mitchell all had good minutes – especially in the second half- and proved that they can be counted on against any level of competition. Allen made two three pointers in the game and combined with Howard to total 10 assists against just 2 turnovers in that critical point guard position.

After the game, the brutally honest Turgeon mulled over the game and the last possession that went awry. “Obviously I never designed a play for our point guard to try and get a shot over a 7-footer but I’m learning this team and there are some things that happen in these early games that you just cannot prepare for,” he said. But after his public flogging he was far more philosophical about his team and what they had just learned.

“We came a long way tonight and we’ll get better as a result. I just really wish we were able to learn these kinds of lessons after a win…”

After watching the Terps tonight one cannot escape the feeling that there are plenty of those coming Turgeon’s way.

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Maryland strives to improve Big Ten's worst defense

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Maryland strives to improve Big Ten's worst defense

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland's season is spinning out of control, and the Terrapins find themselves defenseless in their bid to stop it.

Although much of the attention at Maryland this season has focused on the quarterback position, the team's most obvious flaw is its porous defense.

The Terrapins have yielded an average of 36.5 points per game, which ranks last in the Big Ten and 115th of 129 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. They are permitting 439 yards per game -- last in the Big Ten and 104th in the FBS.

Over the past two games, Maryland (3-3, 1-2) has given up 99 points and 1,115 yards. One big reason is that the Terrapins have one sack in their last three games.

"We definitely need more pressure on the quarterback," coach DJ Durkin said Tuesday. "That's pretty much a staple of football. If you allow a quarterback to be patient and calm in the pocket, they usually find a guy open."

That's happened more times this season than Durkin would care to remember, and goes a long way toward explaining why Maryland's pass defense is 107th in the FBS.

Even though injuries have cost the Terrapins their top two quarterbacks , perhaps the most notable injury is the broken ankle sustained by defensive end Jesse Aniebonam in the season opener. Aniebonam had nine sacks, 14 tackles for a loss and 30 quarterback hurries in 2016.

"It's been a little shaky getting through it," defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr. said.

"When you lose Jesse off the bat like that, he's your main pass rusher," end Brett Kulka said. "So it's going to be an issue to work through."

Durkin got the job at Maryland after a successful runs as a defensive coordinator at Florida and Michigan. In his second season at Maryland, he's tried just about everything to turn things around with this unit.

In the end, though, it comes down to individual effort.

"I'm sure there's always times when you can have a better call in certain situations, but guys have to win 1-on-1s," Durkin said. "If they keep enough guys in the block, someone's got to win a 1-on-1. It's really an attitude and a demeanor. It's about having the right attitude of, `I'm going to go win. I'm going to beat a block.'"

That didn't happen often last weekend in a 37-21 loss to Northwestern. Not only did the Wildcats pass for 293 yards, but tailback Justin Jackson rambled for 171 yards.

It was the third defeat in four games for the Terps. Things don't get any easier Saturday against No. 5 Wisconsin and Big Ten rushing leader Jonathan Taylor, who amassed 219 yards on the ground last week in a win over Purdue .

"He's hard to tackle," Durkin said. "He's got good speed, good vision. He understands what they do. Where to hit the hole, when to be patient how the blocks are going to unfold."

It's going to take a huge effort from the Maryland defense to pull off an upset.

"We need to go back to the basics," Brooks said. "We need to run to the ball more, make more tackles, cause more turnovers."

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Ty Johnson's 100-yard kick return for Maryland earns him Big Ten honors

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Ty Johnson's 100-yard kick return for Maryland earns him Big Ten honors

The Maryland Terrapins got rocked on the road by Ohio State on Saturday, losing 62-14 — although that’s still an improvement on their 62-3 loss in 2016 — but there was a clear bright spot on the field: Ty Johnson.

The Terps’ junior running back was named the Big Ten’s Special Teams Player of the Week, the conference announced Monday, and the honor is well deserved after Johnson stunned the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe in the first quarter of the game with a 100-yard kick return.

After Ohio State jumped out to a 14-zip lead about five minutes into the game, Johnson was on the receiving end of the Buckeyes’ kickoff following their second touchdown. Johnson caught the ball on the edge of his team’s end zone, and thanks to great blocking early on by the Terps, he was able to zigzag his way through Ohio State players and find a path down the sideline to the opposite end zone.

Johnson’s standout play was the 37th 100-yard kick return in Big Ten history, according to the conference. It was also Maryland’s first since Will Likely did it against Iowa in 2015.

This is the first time Johnson has received Special Teams Player of the Week honors, and he averaged 31.5 yards per kick return on six attempts against the Buckeyes on Saturday.

Maryland’s next game is Saturday, October 14 when the Terps host the Northwestern Wildcats at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium.

RELATED: No. 10 Ohio State and J.T. Barrett rout Maryland