The Maryland Terrapins kicked off their 2012-2013 season with a date with John Calipari and the defending national champion No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats in the newly-opened Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Terps struggled offensively in the first half but came out strong in the second half, falling just short, 72-69.
The Wildcats came into the game with an 8-5 series lead over the Terps, but Maryland topped Kentucky in the Sweet 16 in 2002, winning 78-68 en route to their national title that season.
The Terps struggled shooting from the floor went ahead for a little bit with Maryland sophomore center Alex Len throwing down a dunk to take a 9-7 lead. The Kentucky Wildcats then went on a 12-3 run to take a 19-12 lead as the Maryland Terrapins could not make a bucket from the floor in the stretch. Maryland sophomore transfer forward Dez Wells made two field goals to pull within five but Kentucky scored seven straight to take a 26-14 lead with over nine minutes in the first half. The Wildcats continued to dominate in the first half, taking a 49-36 in halftime. The Terps continued to struggle offensively, shooting 30.2 percent from the floor and missing all 11 of their shots from behind the three-point arc.
The Wildcats came out in the second half with two more baskets, including a dunk from Kentucky freshman center Nerlens Noel, to take a 53-38 lead. The Terps started heating up, going on a 15-0 run capped off by Maryland freshman forward Jake Layman draining Maryland's first three-pointer of the season to pull the Terps within two points and freshman forward Shaquille Cleare jamming down a dunk to tie the game up at 53 points each. The Wildcats broke the tie, going up 57-53, but two three-pointers from Maryland freshman guard Seth Allen gave Maryland their first lead of the half, 59-57, with around eight minutes to play in the game.
The Wildcats would take a 72-69 lead with the Terps having one last chance to tie the game to force an overtime. Maryland junior point guard Pe'Shon Howard took the ball past half court, lost the ball and was unable to get off the three-point shot before the buzzer that was contested by Noel.
The Terps are sure to draw some attention around the college basketball world with their strong performance against the defending national champions. Len put together one of the best games of his career, scoring 23 points off 10-18 shooting from the floor and 3-4 from the line, grabbing 12 rebounds and recorded four blocks. Sophomore guard Nick Faust was second on the team with 11 points and senior forward James Padgett had 10 points.
The Kentucky Wildcats were led by sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer who had 19 points. Freshman guard Archie Goodwin was second on the team with 16 points.
The Terps will return home to take on Morehead State on Monday in the Comcast Center in College Park, Md. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.