Maryland hammers Louisville in ACC-Big Ten Challenge


LOUISVILLE — Both of these programs hired new coaches this offseason, but the Maryland men’s basketball team left KFC Yum! Center with another piece of affirmation that its revival under Kevin Willard is ahead of schedule. Louisville, meanwhile, continued a stunning free fall.

No. 22 Maryland took control early and never trailed in a 79-54 win in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge matchup. Louisville, winless in seven games with Kenny Payne at the helm, looked out of sorts most of the evening.

At halftime, Payne told his team: “Fight. Be desperate. Don’t let them make a run.”

And yet when the teams returned, the Terrapins hit five straight three-pointers and their 11-point halftime edge grew to 20.

Maryland (7-0) aced its first true road test, building on a pair of quality wins at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. The Cardinals turned the ball over 13 times and struggled shooting from close range and from the perimeter. Maryland raced out to an 18-4 lead, had a 37-26 edge at halftime and dominated the second half.

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Even with a sizable lead, “the mind-set is to do more, win by more,” Maryland senior Donta Scott said. “Who wouldn’t want to win by more?”

Louisville has endured a dreadful start to its season: The Cardinals lost their first three games by one point apiece, then went to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational and lost to Arkansas, Texas Tech and Cincinnati by an average of 26. Maryland became the latest team to roll past the Cardinals.

The Terps’ impressive start has generally been powered by either strong three-point shooting or Julian Reese’s dominance in the paint. When they’ve lacked in one of those areas, they’ve compensated for with the other. But as Maryland overpowered Louisville, the team instead showcased its versatility. Scott scored 18 points, and Jahmir Young (15 points) and Ian Martinez (10 off the bench) joined him in double figures.

In the first half, with Reese limited and three-point shots not falling, Scott and Young offered reassurance that Maryland could find offense elsewhere. The Terps had an 11-point halftime lead despite just three points from Reese and a 3-for-13 clip from beyond the arc.

The Terrapins found their stride after intermission. As Maryland keyed in on its defensive intensity, Louisville went more than four minutes without scoring, beginning at the 11:04 mark in the second half, and the Terps’ lead ballooned from 22 points to 32.

Willard said he wasn’t worried about his team overlooking a slumping Louisville. “If this was late February,” he said, “I’d worry about that.” Willard has directed the team’s focus toward how it can improve, which has alleviated those concerns and led to a comfortable win on the road.

“This team has come together really quick,” Willard said. “They’ve bought in to how we want to play.”

The turnover-prone Cardinals have one of the lowest-scoring offenses in the country. Louisville entered Tuesday averaging 17.5 turnovers, among the worst marks in Division I. The Cardinals improved upon that average, finishing with 13 giveaways against Maryland, but the Terps scored 21 points off those turnovers.

Late in the first half, when Louisville had some blips of promise, the Terps answered each time. When the Cardinals called a timeout before Reese’s free throw with six seconds to go in the first half, their offense couldn’t get a shot off before the halftime buzzer. Maryland’s defense gave them more trouble in the second half, with the Cardinals shooting just 9 for 30 from the field.

“We did not compete,” Payne said. “We did not fight. We didn’t meet their intensity. At times, it looked like we gave up.”

Coming off a career-best showing in the Terps’ previous outing, Reese was limited by foul trouble and scored just six points in 24 minutes.

“He’s got to figure it out,” Willard said. “He’s gotten two quick fouls again. That’s kind of gotten him out of his rhythm. He’s got to understand that when he’s putting up the numbers he’s putting up, he’s going to get a lot more attention.”

Reese’s lack of production didn’t matter for the Terps, who were offensively superior to the Cardinals in nearly every area. Maryland had some turnover trouble (12 in the game) and a poor mark from the free throw line (14 of 25), but the Terps shot 50 percent from the field to compensate.

This year’s edition of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge marks the end of the event, which ESPN and the conferences established in 1999. Starting next season, the ACC and SEC will instead partner with ESPN for these annual nonconference matchups. Both the ACC and SEC have major media rights agreements with ESPN, while the Big Ten this summer announced a massive new deal with Fox, CBS and NBC but not ESPN.

Maryland, which left the ACC for the Big Ten in 2014, played on both sides of this challenge, going 10-5 with the ACC and just 2-7 with the Big Ten. (Last year’s loss to Virginia Tech turned out to be the final game of Mark Turgeon’s tenure.) As members of the Big Ten, the Terps hadn’t won a road matchup in the event until Tuesday.

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