Louisville, Ky. In the moments that followed Thursday’s 79-63, Sweet 16 loss to top-seeded Kansas at KFC Yum! Center, the teary-eyed Maryland Terrapins were left lamenting what could have been.
After a first half in which Maryland delivered the first punch and outplayed the Jayhawks much of the way, the Terps went to the locker room trailing by two.
“Everything was going great for us and I just felt like we should have had the lead,” said freshman forward Diamond Stone after the loss. “But Kansas is a great team, just like us. It really should’ve been two No. 1 seeds. But the better team won today. Kansas brought their A-game and we came up short.”
Fifth-seeded Maryland (27-9) nearly stole the momentum back just before the first-half buzzer, when guard Rasheed Sulaimon stole the ball from Devonté Graham with two seconds to play in the half and heaved a deep three-pointer toward the rim. The shot looked on target most of the way but fell short and Kansas (33-4) went into the locker room clinging to a 36-34 lead.
View a gallery of images from the Jayhawks' Sweet Sixteen matchup against the Terrapins.
Stone said that shot, had it gone in, might have been the momentum boost that Maryland needed to keep punching in the second half. Instead, the miss gave Kansas somewhat of a lift.
That was felt throughout the Maryland lineup, as Stone and fellow forward Damonte Dodd said the Jayhawks’ toughness in the final 20 minutes proved to be the difference.
Nowhere did that show up better than on the rebounding totals, where Kansas out-rebounded a bigger, taller Maryland team 43-28 overall, 22-8 in the second half.
“It was just effort,” said Stone who played just 21 minutes because of foul trouble. “I didn’t have effort today, our bigs didn’t have effort today. It just wasn’t our game today. In the second half, they were the more physical team. They brought it the second half, from the guards to the bigs.”
Added Dodd: “We matched up well. We just didn’t answer back.”
The loss dropped Maryland coach Mark Turgeon to 0-7 all-time against his alma mater and moved KU into the Elite Eight for the first time since 2012. KU will face second-seeded Villanova (32-5) on Saturday, at 7:50 p.m. Central time.
And, as much as Thursday’s loss stung, Turgeon said it was what KU represents today and not what the school means to his past, that made the loss at least a little easier to swallow.
“We lost to the best team in the country, 33-4 now, No. 1 seed in the tournament,” Turgeon said. “They’ve just crushed people lately. And, in the end, it looks like they crushed us.”
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