COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Halfway there in its bid for a ninth straight victory, No. 12 Purdue suddenly became incapable of making a layup, a short jumper or sinking a shot from beyond the arc.
It was a shortcoming that could be attributed in no small degree to a relentless defensive effort by 24th-ranked Maryland.
Jalen Smith scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half, and the Terrapins frustrated the Boilermakers and sharpshooter Carsen Edwards in a 70-56 victory Tuesday night.
Maryland outscored Purdue 40-18 in the second half, limiting the Boilermakers to 17-percent shooting – including 1 for 16 from 3-point range. Purdue missed its final six shots from the field and 12 of its last 13. The Boilers did not make a basket in the final 4:15.
“In the second half, they were just making it harder on us,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We had some open looks that didn't go down. We had some (forced shots) that we'd like to have back. But there were still a lot of possessions in-between that Maryland's defense was just better than our offense.”
Despite the loss, Purdue remained just a half-game out of first place in the Big Ten and tied in the loss column because No. 6 Michigan was upset by last-place Penn State on Tuesday. Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan all have three losses in conference play.
Edwards scored 24 for Purdue (17-7, 10-3), but was limited to seven points after halftime on 2-for-13 shooting. The Boilermakers finished with four turnovers and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, but they couldn't get the ball in the basket over the final 20 minutes.
“It's pretty amazing what this young group is doing defensively,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said.
Down by eight at halftime, Maryland (19-6, 10-4 Big Ten) took the lead for the first time with 10 minutes left before pulling away. The comeback was fueled by Smith, Eric Alaya and fellow freshman Aaron Wiggins.
Ayala scored 15, Wiggins added 11 and Bruno Fernando had 12 points and 12 rebounds, his seventh straight double-double and 16th of the season. .
.Successive 3s by Ayala knotted the score at 48, and Maryland took its first lead when Smith slammed home an alley-oop from Cowan. It was 50-all before Wiggins drilled a 3 to put the Terrapins ahead for good.
Painter said Ayala's consecutive 3-pointer to tie the game were pivotal.
“That was huge. That was the game,” Painter said. “We don't lose the game right there, but we were also in a position to push that lead and we don't.”