Why was Kevin Willard "not thrilled" with Maryland basketball's blowout win?

Why was Kevin Willard “not thrilled” with Maryland basketball’s blowout win?

Maryland men’s basketball put together its most complete effort yet under new head coach Kevin Willard Tuesday night, Binghamton dispatch, 76-52. The Terps put on cruise control in the second half, never in danger.

But Willard wasn’t happy with how Maryland closed the win. Binghamton out-rebounded Maryland, 26-16, and both teams had 16 points in the paint in the second half. An 8-0 run by the Bearcats with a number of Maryland bench players on the floor results in the Terps’ 32-point lead evaporating into a 24-point victory.

“Honestly I’m really not thrilled with it,” Willard said. “We should have had 34-point one Thursday, we should have at least a 35-point win today. I don’t like the way we ended the game. So if we don’t start ending them better, then they’re not going to get the opportunity. Because stats matter. You’ll all see, your KenPom goes down. NET goes down. I mean the last four minutes are just as important as the first four minutes. And these guys, they do work hard and they are good players. There’s no reason to blow a 34-point lead in the last four minutes of the game. So there comes a responsibility when you step on the court. You got to do what you’re supposed to do.”

The Terps finished with a plus8 turnover margin and also edged out the Bearcats on the boards, 42-38, to take control from the start. Nine different players scored for Maryland, including eight in the first half alone, led by Julian Reese (19), hakim hart (13) and Donta Scott (10).

“They just won at Marist. To win on the road in college basketball is really hard,” Willard said. “I don’t care what the competition is, who you’re playing. Winning on the road is hard. So we wanted to make sure that we came out with an intensity that they knew they weren’t going to win. And I think that was our mindset that we wanted to set the tone very early that you weren’t going to do what you just did three days ago.”

Maryland started fast, scoring the first eight points of the game, including two early baskets from Reese. Strong defense and pace, key traits of Willard’s system, led to the Terps capturing a 31-8 lead just a shade over 14 minutes into the game.

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Willard and his staff went deep into the bench early in the game, showing off squad depth with a key three from freshman Noah Bachelor and a pair of quick buckets from Ike Cornish that forced a timeout by the Bearcats with three minutes left in that half.

A left-handed tomahawk jam from Julian Reese put a stamp on a strong first half that ended with Maryland leading, 44-23. Eight different terps scored in the first 20 minutes, led by hakim hart with 13 and Reese with 10.Maryland turns its focus to the 2022 Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off, where the Terps face Saint Louis Saturday at 1 pm and will either play Providence or Miami on Sunday. With three games under their belt and a few days to practice and regroup, players are beginning to feel confident.

“I wouldn’t say we all were there, but every day we improve and we’re just getting better every day with the stuff that he tries to instill in us and try to put in as practice goes,” Scott said. “We really are all kind of locking-in to what he has in store for us and nobody’s been fighting back on any of the things that we’ve been doing. Everybody has been kind of bought in to, like all the things he’s been trying to have us do like load up our press, being more physical, being more active and everybody’s been buying in.”

As for the importance of starting with three wins at home before this weekend’s games and the following stretch of Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee and UCLA, Willard kept it short and simple; “It’s better than being 0-3.”

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