Trimble Clutch in Terps’ Escape Vs. Monmouth

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland defeated Monmouth Nov. 28 at the Xfinity Center.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. --The ball ended up right where it needed to be during the most important sequence of the game Nov. 28 in the closing seconds at Xfinity Center.

Deon Jones’ 3-pointer to tie the game caromed off the iron and went straight to Melo Trimble. And with 7.7 seconds on the clock, Trimble drilled two more free throws to finally end Monmouth’s upset bid, the Terrapins prevailing 61-56 in their first game without scoring leader and emotional linchpin Dez Wells.

“He’s the guy I want at the line shooting those big free throws for us,” said Evan Smotrycz of his freshman teammate. “He has proven it this week.”

Trimble, who had the CBE Classic MVP trophy end up in his hands earlier in the week, finished with a game-high 24 points, and hit 13-of-14 free throws, including eight in a row the last 44.8 seconds. Maryland (6-0) scored 11 points in the last 3:37, and Trimble had nine of them, and assisted the only Terrapin field goal, a lay-up by just-returned Smotrycz.

The Terrapins are off to their best start since going 8-0 in 2006-07, and the victory over No. 13 Iowa State Tuesday was the first win over a ranked non-conference opponent since 2008-09, when Maryland beat No. 5 Michigan State at the Old Spice Classic in late November.

But Nov. 28 night in front of a nervous crowd of 9,139, the Terrapins nearly squandered all of that before Trimble stepped up, again and again.

“He’s a winner,” said coach Mark Turgeon of Trimble. “He came and got the ball every time they scored so he could get fouled and make the free throws. And that’s what winners do.”

Trimble took over for a Terrapin team seeming fighting off tryptophan in the second half. Truth be told, they were fighting off a lot of things, including a pretty good Monmouth (2-3) team that had West Virginia down 16 in the second half earlier this year and plays for former North Carolina point guard King Rice, who counts Turgeon among his mentors.

“We were just a little out of rhythm, trying to get used to not having Dez and bringing Evan back, too, so there was a double-whammy,” said Turgeon. “Evan hadn’t really practiced a lot for us, and so it’s going to take us a little time to figure that out.”

Smotrycz’s return from a broken foot suffered in the preseason was timely, though. Wells is gone for four weeks with a broken wrist suffered Tuesday against Iowa State, and you can’t even begin to imagine how much this team misses him.

“It was hard,” explained Turgeon. “We huddle up and Dez always takes over, ‘Hey, everybody in.’ Well, the first three huddles, no one is saying anything because it was always Dez. That was new.”

Wells, who had surgery today, didn’t appear until halftime, sitting at the end of the bench and alternating agonizing at Maryland’s offensive woes and encouraging his teammates.

“It was hard (without Wells),” admitted Trimble. “He wasn’t there for the first part of the game and I knew if he was there he would give us the energy we needed, but he wasn’t. We had to create our own energy. It was kind of tough.”

Jake Layman helped, providing some offense through a tough second-half stretch where Monmouth made a run. Layman finished with 14 points and four rebounds. Smotrycz also had some moments in 22 minutes – more than Turgeon wanted to play him his first game back – with four points and a team-high six rebounds.

Freshman Jared Nickens also played well with eight points, and Michal Cekovsky had some highlights, too, but is still looking for consistency. He had four points, five rebounds, a block and an assist but couldn’t help keep the Hawks off the offensive glass at key times. Maryland had a slight 31-28 edge on the boards but Monmouth grabbed nine offensive boards, seven in the second half, part of an 11-6 Hawks’ advantage in second chance points.

“Obviously we were out of sync offensively, but we guarded,” said Turgeon. “We were really good defensively in the first half until the end. They hit a few threes. In the second half we gave up too many second chance points and rebounds.”

Leading by 10 with under five minutes to play, Maryland saw Monmouth battle back one more time. Pesky point guard Justin Robinson hit two free throws and then a Layman turnover fueled a fastbreak that led to Austin Tilghman’s layup to make it 50-44 with 3:56 to play.

Trimble hit one of two at the line but the 5-8 Robinson drilled two freebies to make it 51-46 at 3:18. Trimble got it back, though, driving and feeding Smotrycz for a lay-in. Robinson, making one of very few Monmouth miscues in the second half, took an ill-advised three but the Terrapins couldn’t convert at the other end when big Brice Kofane blocked Layman’s shot, one of four for the 6-8 Hawks forward.

Kofane, got a third chance basket at the other end, when Maryland couldn’t secure the defensive glass. After a controversial offensive foul on Trimble, the Hawks again got three chances, Andrew Nicholas finally canning a three with 48.2 seconds to make it 53-51.

Trimble broke a press and was fouled, coolly hitting both free throws.

But the Hawks were again soaring when Max DiLeo dropped in a baseline 3-pointer with 37.4 seconds left to make it 55-54. Two more Trimble free throws with 34.7 seconds left. Jones scored on a drive over Cekovsky and this time Trimble took a nasty spill as he was fouled. His two free throws at 17.1 seconds made it 59-56, to set up the final sequence.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself, especially shooting free throws,” said Trimble. “I shot 100 free throws before today’s game. I shot 87-for-100. When we’re in a close game, I always know I’m going to get the ball and take care of it.”

Jones and DiLeo each had 11 to lead the Hawks, who shot 37 percent from the field, and were 6-of-21 (28.6 percent) from long distance, including hitting two in the final minute.

Earlier, Monmouth was within three points before Layman hit a three at 9:52, but two Austin Tilghman free throws cut the deficit back to 42-38 at 8:03. Trimble hit two at the line but DiLeo did the same for the Hawks, and it was 44-40 with 7:10 remaining.

Three straight Maryland free throws, two by Layman, pushed the lead back to seven but matters were still dire as the shot clock ticked down and Nickens let fly from deep. His 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired made it 50-40 with 4:51 left.

“I thought we were going to be a little flat,” said Turgeon. “I put my head on the pillow at 5 a.m., coming back from Kansas City. We went through some things and trying to get ourselves back. I knew we were going to be a different animal tonight. We never quite found the right combination.”

The Hawks had cut a 10-point halftime deficit down to six in the first 3 ½ minutes of the second half. Not long after Cekovsky hit a nice jumper under duress, he got stripped to start a fastbreak, Jones hitting a reverse layup to make it 36-20 at 16:29.

Layman hit a jumper to push the lead back to eight but Josh James hit one-of-two frees and as the Terrapin offense misfired, the Hawks squandered three straight chances to get closer.

Layman would add a free throw but Maryland’s offense had disappeared. Kofane scored inside and then got a dunk, and when DiLeo hit one of two free throws at 10:11, Monmouth was within 39-36.

Layman hit a three over the 2-3 zone, Maryland’s first field goal in 5:58. The Terrapins were 6-of-17 from the field (35.3 percent) in the second half and had six turnovers. Over a stretch of 11 minutes, Maryland scored just two field goals.

“We weren’t moving the ball around and caught standing around a lot, and that hurt us at the end of the first half and in the second,” said Layman. “We’re lucky we hit some big shots. Offensively, we’ve definitely got to get better.”

And quickly, the Terrapins play against Sunday at 6 p.m., against VMI of the Southern Conference. Wednesday, old nemesis/No. 8 Virginia comes to town for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Maryland shot 37.8 percent for the game but did most of the damage late from the free throw line, well, Trimble did most of the damage there. Maryland was 20-of26 (80.8 percent) at the stripe.

“We know we’re a lot better as a team than we showed tonight,” said Layman. “With spacing, knowing the plays and stuff like that. Evan coming back is an adjustment for us because we haven’t had him all year but so far it’s been great. We can’t hold our heads (missing Wells).”

Maryland led 32-22 at the end of a first half filled with ups and downs. The Terrapins had a 15-0 edge in points off turnovers, and 10-2 in the paint, but a late Monmouth run got the Hawks back within striking distance.

The score was tied 5-5, when the Terrapins got on an early roll, going on a 14-3 spree. Jon Graham got a stickback to put the Terps up 7-5, at 16:01, and Layman followed with a score inside and then a dunk. Jones got a three-pointer but then it was eight-straight Maryland points. Cekovsky scored on a drive, Trimble hit a three, and Nickens canned another triple to make it 19-8 at 12:46.

Monmouth got back-to-back buckets to climb back within seven, but the Terrapins were up by 12 at 4:23, when Trimble drained his third first-half trey to make it 26-14.

Hawks closed strong, though with an 8-2 run to cut into what had been a 16-point Maryland lead at 2:02, when Layman hit two free throws. DiLeo hit two free throws and Andrew Nicholas knocked down a three in transition to make it 30-19.

Layman got two free throws but Monmouth played for a last shot, spread the Terrapins out and DiLeo got loose for a three with 1.4 seconds left to make it 32-22.

Graham had four points and three rebounds in 16 minutes after starting and Damonte Dodd, who also started, had a rebound to show for his 11 minutes. Richaud Pack was 0-for-4 from the field and scoreless for the first time this season. He ahs scored just three points total in the last three games.

Dion Wiley had just three points to go with an assist and steal in one of his least effective offensive outings.

Smotrycz also led the Terps with four rebounds in the first half, seeing his first action of the season. He learned he was going to play after the morning shoot-around. He said there was some pain in the foot, and that “learning to adapt to that was going to be big.”

Good thing the freshman point guard put his best foot forward.

“After being with Melo for however long I’ve been with him, I know he’ll come through in those situations,” said Layman. “We’re not really worried about him with the ball down the stretch.”

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