The 12th-ranked Maryland men’s basketball team came into their Big Ten home opener against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Jan. 3 riding high after a gutty 68-66 double-overtime win at Michigan State in their conference opener. The Terrapins came out firing, and got the crowd involved early.
Freshman guard Melo Trimble scored a team-high 20 points and grabbed six rebounds, and senior forwards Jake Layman and Dez Wells each added 12 points to lead Maryland to a 70-58 win over Minnesota (11-4 overall, 0-2 Big Ten) to improve to 14-1 (2-0 Big Ten). The Terrapins went 17 of 24 from the free-throw line in the second half after making just three of four in the first half.
Maryland went seven of 19 from the three-point line in the first half. One of those threes was from Jake Layman to give the Terps their first lead of the day. That was immediately followed by a steal and dunk by Dez Wells that got the near-capacity crowd of 15,788 roaring less than a minute and a half into the game. Maryland continued using the three to extend their lead to 26-17 with nine and a half minutes left in the first half. Meanwhile, freshman forward Damonte Dodd of Centreville, Md. and Queen Anne’s High School continues to become a fan favorite in College Park. He nearly threw down an alley-oop from Wells, but was fouled. He had a team-high nine first-half points, two blocks, and three of his seven rebounds in the first half were on the offensive glass. However, Maryland’s offense still comes and goes.
“We’re a team that plays in spurts offensively, and we had one really good spurt where everything was clicking, and we built the lead up to 15, and then just kind of held on from there,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. Maryland pulled out to a 32-17 lead with just over seven minutes left in the first half. Minnesota got back into the game by extending full-court pressure, and that took its toll as the first half wound down. The Golden Gophers went on a 16-4 run to close out the half as Maryland went just two of seven from the floor and committed four turnovers in the final seven minutes. Turgeon said the team let their offense affect their defense, and feels his players may have been nervous because of how large and electric the crowd was, even in the middle of the semester break.
“I think we were nervous a little bit because of the crowd, and we have to get used to it a little bit. How we play the rest of the year will determine what our crowds are. If we play well and continue to get better, then our crowds are going to be great,” Turgeon said.
Freshman guard Melo Trimble came out of the locker room attacking, scoring Maryland’s first seven points to start the second half. He capped his one-man run with a layup while being fouled just over three minutes into the second half. Trimble said that at halftime, Turgeon addressed the team’s lack of trips to the free throw line, and said Maryland wasn’t playing its game.
“Coach Turgeon said we weren’t shooting free throws in the beginning of the game, and that’s not the way we play,” Trimble said. “So I just took what he said and tried to get to the basket, and that’s what we did as a team.” Trimble went nine of 13 from the foul line, and scored 15 points in the second half.
Minnesota tried to speed Maryland up, and while it worked in forcing turnovers and poor quick shots by the Terrapins, the Gophers also had trouble hanging onto the ball to run their offense. The game got physical in the second half, with both teams being called for double-digit fouls, and the fans loudly booing each foul called on Maryland, including at least two on what looked like clean blocks. Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino was not happy with his team’s 19 total fouls, as well as its shot selection. However, Maryland maintained a lead throughout the second half, and Jake Layman ended any hope of a Gophers comeback by hitting a three with 2:54 left coming out of a timeout to give the Terps a 66-54 lead. Layman then blocked a layup attempt, Dodd picked up the loose ball, and connected with Trimble on an outlet pass for a layup with 1:20 left to make it 69-56 and forcing Minnesota to call a 30-second timeout. Dodd received a standing ovation when he fouled out with 1:07 left, finishing with 12 rebounds (four offensive) and three of Maryland’s nine blocks. Turgeon was pleased with his team’s defense, among other things.
“I thought our defense was really good most of the game. I thought it was terrific in the second half,” Turgeon said. The Gophers went three for 22 from beyond the arc, including 0 for 11 in the second half. Since an eight-day layoff in December, Turgeon says the team has improved the most in defending and rebounding. He’s particularly pleased with how Dodd is playing on defense, and how he’s continuing to get better and contribute more on the offensive end.
“He’s just playing with a whole lot of confidence, and the offense is just an added addition to what he gives us every game on defense. He’s a great presence at the rim” Turgeon said, adding that Dodd did a great job defending Gophers forward Maurice Walker one-on-one, without any team help. Walker led Minnesota with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
“He’s a really good big, solid, very strong. It was a pleasure to play against him,” Dodd said. He says he’s hearing about how happy people are for him back home on the Eastern Shore.
“People are just real proud ‘cause not many people get to play at the collegiate level like I’m playing at back where I’m from,” Dodd said.
Maryland will go back on the road to play its next two games on Jan. 7 at Illinois and Jan. 10 at Purdue. The Terrapins will return home on Jan. 14 against fellow Big Ten newcomer Rutgers.