Despite a week’s worth of rest, the 2nd-seeded Maryland Terrapins (25-13, 8-10 ACC) were unable to move forward in the NIT Tournament as they fell to the 3rd-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes (25-12, 9-9 Big Ten) 71-60 on Tuesday night.
For the Terrapins, the team had a solid season filled with learning and improvement. Not many critics foresaw the Terps beating Duke twice, once in the season and once in the ACC Tournament. When analysts looked at Maryland, they saw a young, athletic team that had potential but not enough to be considered a NCAA tournament-caliber squad. As it turns out, the Terps got snubbed out of a NCAA bid. However, they took that in stride. They shot out of the gate in the NIT Tournament, rolling over Niagara and Denver and then beating a quality Alabama team. Many thought the Terps would make it all the way to the NIT finals, something they haven’t done since 1972. But the end-of-the-year run, beginning with a notable ACC Tournament performance and winning 5 of their last 6, was brought to a grinding halt on Tuesday.
Seth Allen, Charles Mitchell, and Dez Wells celebrate within a huddle during the NIT Tournament. With these 3, the Terrapins can stay positive about next year. (BleacherReport.com)
Iowa, like Maryland, had something to prove after the beginning of this season. The Hawkeyes had a rough start to the year, but then got hot and are currently on a streak where they have won 11 of their past 14 games. However, they picked up their play too late and were not offered a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Looking forward, Iowa could prove to be a future rival for Maryland, as the Terps plan to join the Big Ten in 2014.
The first half saw Iowa handle Maryland well, and the Hawkeyes would always keep an 8 to 10 point cushion in front of the Terps. However, they could not quite put the Terrapins away. At the end of the first half, the Terps made a run and brought themselves within 5. It was much of the same story in the second half. Maryland would make small runs, but Iowa always kept the Terps at a distance and did not allow Maryland to take a lead at all throughout the entire second half. Iowa made a few key baskets down the stretch, including Eric May’s 3-pointer with a minute left, while Maryland was unable to take advantage of key opportunities.
Alex Len led the way for the Terps with a near double-double: 16 points and 9 rebounds. He also added 6 blocks to his stat line. For the Hawkeyes, Devyn Marble had a game-high 21 points and 9 rebounds. Maryland could not take care of the basketball throughout the game, committing a total of 17 turnovers. Iowa, meanwhile, capitalized on Maryland’s mistakes, scoring a total of 27 points off of Terp turnovers.
Looking forward, Maryland has a lot to be positive about. They had statement wins this season, made a deep run in the NIT Tournament, and showed the nation that athleticism can get a team somewhere. Yes, Alex Len seems to be leaning towards leaving for the NBA. However, with Dez Wells likely coming back and a starting 5 (minus Len) intact for next year, the Terps can get ready for another solid season. The younger guys now have ACC Tournament and NIT Tournament experience under their belts, and with that, the Terps can hang their heads high as they walk out of Madison Square Garden tonight.