Lack of offense dooms Maryland men’s basketball in 73-51 loss to No. 1 seed Alabama in NCAA Tournament second round

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The well ran dry for the Maryland men’s basketball team.

Offense — or more accurately, a lack thereof — contributed to the No. 8 seed Terps losing, 73-51, to overall No. 1 seed Alabama in an NCAA Tournament second-round game Saturday night before an announced 15,198 at Legacy Arena.

Maryland (22-13) got a team-high 14 points from sophomore power forward Julian Reese and 12 points from graduate student point guard Jahmir Young, but the team was denied its 15th overall Sweet 16 berth and first since 2016 largely because of its inability to score.

After opening the game connecting on its first four shots and sprinting to a 9-2 advantage just 2:27 into the first half, the Terps fell into droughts of 2:09, 5:19 and 4:40 in the period. Those ruts opened the door for the Crimson Tide to assume their first advantage at 15-14 with 7:30 left and then take the lead for good at 19-17 with 5:59 remaining.

Maryland’s offense labored because of foul trouble that plagued Reese. The Baltimore native and St. Frances graduate, who amassed 17 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three blocks in the team’s 67-65 win against No. 9 seed West Virginia in Thursday’s first round, picked up his first two fouls in a 19-second span and then his third with 8:50 left in the first half.

The absence of Reese (four points on 2-for-3 shooting, one rebound and one block) sapped the Terps of their most dangerous presence on the interior. It also permitted Alabama’s defense to press out and hawk the perimeter, which contributed to Maryland missing nine and then seven shots in a row for a 30.8% conversion rate (8 of 26) in the first half.

The Crimson Tide weren’t much better at 38.5% (10 of 26) in that frame, but they had one player Maryland didn’t: Brandon Miller. The freshman phenom and small forward showed few effects from a lingering groin injury that limited him to a season-low zero points in Thursday’s 96-75 thumping of No. 16 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. He scored nine points and grabbed two rebounds in the first half to propel the Crimson Tide to a 28-23 lead at halftime.

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Miller lived up to his reputation as the first freshman in Southeastern Conference history to win the league’s Player and Freshman of the Year honors and the league tournament’s Most Valuable Player award in the same season. He scored 10 of his 19 points in the second half, collected seven rebounds for the game and demonstrated why he is widely regarded as the third-best player in June’s NBA draft behind France’s Victor Wembanyama and the G League Ignite’s Scoot Henderson.

Miller — whose name was included in court testimony surrounding the capital murder case of former teammate Darius Miles and another man, who are charged in the shooting death of 23-year-old Jamea Harris on Jan. 15 — is the only player in Division I to score 665 points, collect 280 rebounds and connect on 100 3-pointers this season. He is five 3-pointers away from joining former Duke star Shane Battier as the only players in Division I history to amass more than 650 points, 275 rebounds and 110 3-pointers in a season.

Miller was complemented by senior point guard Jahvon Quinerly, who scored a game-high 22 points.

The Terps’ offensive futility extended into the second half. They went scoreless through periods of 2:26 and 4:55 — the latter of which they missed six straight shots.

Maryland’s post presence was sapped even further when graduate student power forward Patrick Emilien absorbed an inadvertent elbow from Reese to the forehead while contesting for a defensive rebound with 12:31 left in the second half. Bleeding profusely from his brow, Emilien immediately went to the locker room.

Eighteen seconds later, Reese was assessed his fourth foul while defending Alabama sophomore center Charles Bediako and promptly took a seat on the bench. Reese eventually fouled out with 2:24 left in the game.

The 51 points were the third-lowest total of the season for Maryland.

The Crimson Tide earned the right to advance to its ninth overall Sweet 16 and second in the past three years. They will face No. 5 seed San Diego State (29-6), which blasted No. 13 seed Furman, 75-52, in a second-round matchup earlier in the day.

The game is scheduled for Friday at a time to be announced at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Alabama, which has won five consecutive games and nine of its past 10, avoided becoming the fourth overall No. 1 seed to fall in the second round. The team also kept alive its bid to join Florida in 2007, Kentucky in 2012 and Louisville in 2013 as the only overall No. 1 seeds to capture the NCAA Tournament title since the selection committee began ranking the No. 1 seeds in 2004.

The Crimson Tide have outscored their first two opponents in the NCAA Tournament by an average of 21.5 points. They also have won three of the last four meetings with the Terps, including a 96-77 outcome that ushered them out of the second round of the 2021 NCAA postseason.