By Zach Phillips.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated Maryland 89-75 Thursday in College Park in a game that was more defensive than the score would indicate.
The game was the University’s “Do Good” game, meant to promote the multi-million-dollar initiative to inspire students to “Do Good” in their communities. Unfortunately for the Terps, it was the Gophers who “Did Well” when they controlled the second half.
Maryland came into the game with four losses in the Big Ten, but three of those came in the Terps’ last five games. Meanwhile Minnesota had greatly improved since last year, losing only seven games and earning fifth place in the conference. Five of those losses came consecutively in January — and all to Big Ten teams, including Maryland — but they had rebounded to win five straight going into Wednesday’s contest.
“We’re a good team. I mean, that’s it, we’ve got to accept it, we’re a good team,” said Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino.
Melo Trimble was named the Big Ten Player of the Week last week after strong scoring performances against Northwestern and Wisconsin, but struggled Wednesday, scoring just 11 points. Maryland played without junior Michal Cekovsky, who injured his ankle against Wisconsin on Sunday and is out for the season.
Minnesota started off strong, pulling ahead 10-4 with the help of two three-pointers from Akeem Springs. Maryland made good plays and got to the rim, but had trouble finishing — starting six of 19 from the field. The Terps battled back to earn a 19-17 lead off a Justin Jackson three with a little under 10 minutes remaining in the first.
Minnesota bounced back, hitting two threes to make it 27-21. But Maryland responded with strong defense, and points off the bench from Jaylen Brantley and Ivan Bender to close out the half with a 35-34 lead. Though Maryland had played great defense, they ultimately didn’t take advantage of an over three-minute-long scoring drought by the Gophers to build their lead. Bender, however, delivered with 12 points in Cekovsky’s absence.
The second half began with the teams trading shots for the first five minutes, with the
Maryland starters starting to produce more. Freshmen Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter both scored five points early.
The teams traded points, and Minnesota held a small lead for a good portion of the second half. With 7:23 left in the second, Minnesota led 67-60. They had held Maryland scoreless for several minutes.
“We weren’t able to penetrate the way we wanted, weren’t able to score around the basket the way we wanted,” said Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon.
“We changed up our ball screens because they were just torching us in the first half,” said Pitino. “We just seemed to control the game in the second half, and to win on the road you got to do that.”
Late in the second half, a technical foul was called on the Maryland Head Coach Mark Turgeon, his second in two games. This allowed Minnesota to extend their lead to 10 points with four and a half minutes remaining.
The Terps struggled to find the bottom of the net towards the end of the second half, which may have been in part due to strong Minnesota defense under the basket.
“We did a lot of nice things offensively until about the eight-minute mark (in the second half) and we weren’t good enough down the stretch,” said Turgeon.
Minnesota tallied eight blocks, while Maryland had zero. After managing to keep the game close for most of the second half, Minnesota eventually pulled away and Maryland could find no answer offensively.
Minnesota had five players with 13 or more points, with Dupree MacBrayer leading with 18 points. Ivan Bender led Maryland with 15 points, and no starter scored more than 11.
The loss was Maryland’s fourth in the last six games, all against Big Ten opponents.