COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- If you thought Mark Turgeon had a tough task turning the Terrapins back into a national force this season, get a load of his newest mission this week.
“I just don’t want anybody telling my guys they’re good,” added Turgeon after telling the gathered media that very thing following Maryland’s 75-59 victory Saturday over Michigan State.
Coach, this is a secret that’s gonna be tough to keep a lid on.
The Terrapins (17-2, 5-1) stayed atop the Big Ten standings, won their third straight game and 10th in the last 11 starts. They even looked better than their No. 14 ranking, dispatching the Spartans (12-6, 3-2) with great perimeter defense and even better perimeter offense. A pretty good Michigan State team is 3-0 against the rest of the conference and 0-2 versus Maryland.
Melo Trimble and Jake Layman combined for 47 points in this one, 24 by Trimble, including six 3-pointers. He had a dribble-drive, between-the-legs, fake and 3-point dagger just before the half that sort of summed up the way things were going. For both teams.
“I never made a move like that before in my life,” said Trimble. “I didn’t know what to do. I was glad the clock ran out because I was already celebrating.”
The big 3-pointer put Maryland up 14 over a Spartan team that it took double overtime to vanquish three weeks ago, and put an exclamation point on Trimble’s 21-point first half.
“I liked the way we finished the half, we did a two-for-one (shots),” said Turgeon. “We called a timeout. Richaud (Pack) got fouled and we got two free throws. We got a stop and then Melo got that shot. And yes, I’ve seen him do that many times. His confidence doesn’t shock me.”
But this game was probably decided at the other end where Trimble, Dez Wells and Pack, in particular, put the clamps on the Spartans’ guards, particularly Travis Trice who lit the Terps up for 26 points in the first meeting. Trice was 2-of-8 for five points this go-round.
“I told the bigs the only way teams can (score) on us at the point guard position is because we don’t practice like we play,” said Trimble “We hedge off (screens) really well but in the games we forget or get tired. I was really motivated to play this game because Trice is a great player. I’ve been watching a lot of film of him and he reminds me of Seth Curry. I knew I had to take it upon myself to play defense if we wanted to win.”
And Trimble wasn’t the only one making that commitment.
“I thought defensively we were as good as we’ve been in a half,” said Turgeon of the final 20 minutes. “I know they shot 44 percent for the game, but I thought we were terrific. I thought Dez Wells defensively on (Denzel) Valentine was off the charts. It was one of (Wells’) best games. You’ll look at the numbers and say, ‘Coach is crazy.’ He had nine points but he had five assists, two turnovers and he really guarded.”
The Spartans were just 3-of-17 from 3-point range, and the shooting even carried over to the free throw line where they were only 4-of-13. Those factors allowed Maryland, hitting 11-of-21 3-point attempts to pull away and stay there.
“They shot well and we missed layups,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who saw his team’s three-game winning streak snapped. “That’s a bad combination. (Maryland) is good and if they shoot like that, they’re great.”
Turgeon again credited the sellout crowd of 17,950 in Xfinity Center for helping push his team to new heights Saturday but he also thought a great practice before the big game fine-tuned his team. He has added more offense, and as Wells and fellow senior Evan Smotrcyz have become healthier, the offense has “flowed” better.
“We flowed better, we screened better and our offense executed better,” said Turgeon.
And it took all of that and some of the best defense the Terrapins have played this season to hand Sparty a 16-point setback.
“We have been playing good up until this point but I never thought we would dominate a team like this,” said Trimble, who was 8-of-16 from the field, 6-of-11 from three. “Normally we’ll let a team come back and stop playing but we really played a well-rounded game. Coach Turgeon humbled us at halftime. He’s always reminding us to never forget what we started and he wanted us to keep playing. This is a great win but we just have to keep on going.”
The Terrapins go to Indiana Jan. 22, so Turgeon has some time to tinker again, and steel the team for a stretch of four road contests in the next seven games. Maryland comes home Jan. 25 to host Northwestern.
“Obviously, I’m really proud of my team, that’s what I’ve been waiting for,” said Turgeon of the solid effort Saturday.
Down 14, the Spartans started the second half taking the ball inside even more than they did in the first half, which is saying something for a team that had just three perimeter baskets in the first 20 minutes. When Branden Dawson scored inside at 15:34, the Spartans had closed to 46-35.
Not long after, at 14:39, Wells got his first bucket of the game, scoring on a drive to take the lead back to 13, and then his three at 13:47 made it 53-37. Wells’ reentry into the offense jump-started a 12-3 Maryland run that put jump-shot-challenged Michigan State into a serious bind.
The Spartans didn’t help themselves any, hitting just two-of-10 at the free throw line in the second half. Smotrcyz scored on back-to-back drives and when Trimble hit a three at 11:04, Maryland was up 60-40. The Terrapins, picking up where they left off in the first half, hit four of their first six 3-point attempts after intermission.
But it was the Maryland defense that turned the ballyhooed rematch into a blowout. The Spartans never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way and that wasn’t until less than two minutes remained.
Maryland had just one field goal after Trimble’s three with 11:04 left, but the Terrapins, as is their custom, did a lot of damage at the free throw line. They were 12-of-13 at the line over the last 7:03, and finished 20-of-22, a season-high 90.9 percent.
Layman, on his way to 23 points and 12 rebounds (his second straight double-double), hit 11-of-12 at the free throw line, speaking to his aggressiveness on offense. Maryland did a much better job this game of taking advantage of his natural mismatch on the floor. He had just four points when the two teams met in East Lansing.
“We were trying to guard him with smaller guys because of the ineptness of some of our big guys,” said Izzo, disgusted with his team’s performance. “I think (Layman) was more aggressive. When you get to the line (12) times, you’re doing something.”
After Layman and Trimble, Wells had his nine, and Jared Nickens chipped in eight. Smotrycz had four, and Damonte Dodd, three with four rebounds and four blocked shots. For Michigan State, Dawson had 14 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks before fouling out at 1:33. Matt Costello had 12 points and seven rebounds.
“We had a good game, but we took advantage of some matchups today with (Layman),” said Turgeon. “He was smart about it and what makes him look better is that he finishes his opportunities. His confidence and watching him play is a lot of fun. Just to watch him come out of his shell is great to see.”
Layman was 5-of-8 from the field and hit both his 3-point attempts.
Trimble and Layman scored 34 of Maryland’s 40 points in the first half to spark Maryland to a 40-26 halftime lead. They had 31 of the last 33 Maryland points to pace Maryland in a game that was evening out otherwise.
Maryland and Michigan State each shot 48 percent in the first half, and the Terps had a slim 15-13 rebounding edge (both teams finished with 34 rebounds). The big difference was Maryland’s six 3-pointers on 11 long shots – Trimble 5-for-7, and Layman 1-for-1. The Spartans were 0-for-4 behind the arc, and had nine turnovers leading to 13 Maryland points.
Michigan State stayed within shouting distance thanks to a 22-12 edge in points in the paint, keyed by the 6-8 Costello’s eight points off the bench.
Trailing by five, Maryland ran off a 19-4 blitz to lead 24-14 at 7:20 when Trimble buried the third of three consecutive 3-pointers and part of 13 straight points he scored, just after Layman scored seven in a row. The Terrapins hit seven of 10 shots during one particularly torrid stretch in building the lead.
Dawson blocked Dodd’s dunk attempt and Michigan State ended a drought of two and a half minutes when Costello got a layup at 6:11. The Spartans got the lead down to seven on several occasions but couldn’t get closer, Maryland ending with a 7-0 run, including Trimble’s three two seconds before the half.
“I was going to go to Jake and Damonte was going to set a screen but it was too slow,” said Trimble. “So I just told him to go back and decided to go one-on-one. If I didn’t have it, I would go to Jake. I freed up and the shot went in.”
The Terrapins were up 5-2 early after Trimble hit a three and scored on a drive but in an already physical game, Maryland saw the Spartans reel off the next eight points as the Terrapins missed six straight shots in a 2-for-10 start.
Costello came off the bench to give Sparty a lift, scoring inside twice in the run. When Dawson canned two free throws at 13:06, Michigan State led 10-5. Maryland ran off the nine points, seven by Layman. His 3-pointer at 11:35, put the Terps back in front, 12-10, and that run turned into the big spree on the way to a 10-point lead.
“We ran a play after a timeout that we’ve never ran, and the guys executed great,” explained Turgeon. “Jake hit a three and then we got him into the post a couple of times. We’ve got a smart team – I haven’t said it as much lately – but our guys know when a guy is hot and where to go to.”
Trimble, Terps Topple Sparty, in First Place
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