COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Robert Carter, Jr., just kept telling his teammates to make the “right plays.” Rasheed Sulaimon kept the team calm, emphasizing there was plenty of time to come back. Again.
Jake Layman kept shooting and Melo Trimble kept driving to the basket. All together it added up to a 75-71 Maryland victory in the long-anticipated renewal of Maryland-Georgetown in the two teams’ backyard in the inaugural Gavitt Tipoff Games at Xfinity Center before a raucous sellout crowd.
“The atmosphere out there was crazy and we needed every bit of it,” said Sulaimon of the 3rd-ranked Terrapins battling uphill most of the second half against a desperate 0-2 Georgetown squad.
It was the first meeting of the rivals on a local court since 1993, and the first time in College Park since 1973. The mounting pressure seemed to test the Terrapins early, who started slowly in both halves.
“We just believed in each other,” said Melo Trimble, who had a game-high 24 points and took command late with his strong drives to the basket.
“A lot of things weren’t going our way throughout the night,” said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. “Georgetown was terrific. But in the end we did what we had to do. We got just enough stops and we were terrific on the offensive end. We started to play downhill with Melo and Rasheed getting to the rim and getting fouled, Robert Carter giving us a big lift in the post.”
The Terrapins (2-0) trailed by nine out of the gates, and after battling back a couple of times, were down seven with under six minutes to go. That’s when that veteran leadership on the team took over and the team seemed to grow up in times lapse photography. “We got a little outside of ourselves,” said Sulaimon. “That’s one of the jobs, me, Robert Carter, Jake, as experienced guys, had to bring everybody together, just relax a little bit, and then we took off in the latter part of the game.”
Two Layman free throws at 4:28 brought Maryland within 61-56, the Terrapins ready to climb out of the hole. Trimble hit two more free throws, and when Georgetown’s Bradley Hayes missed the front end of a one-and-one, Trimble came down on the break and knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 61-61, at 3:56, about the same time Greivis Vasquez showed up in the arena, fist-pumping the crowd of 17,950 into a frenzy.
Led by Sulaimon’s sticky defense on the perimeter, Maryland forced a shot clock violation. Layman took advantage, canning a deep baseline three and giving Maryland it’s first lead, 66-63, since late in the first half. Fifteen seconds later at 2:05, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera hit a three to tie it back up.
Carter, on his way to 12 points and eight rebounds, hit an NBA-quality hook under duress, and then Georgetown’s Marcus Derrickson tied it back up for the 10th time with two free throws. Trimble penetrated, found Layman in that same corner but Layman fired the ball back how high where Sulaimon hit a 3-pointer at 1:17, Terps back in front and for good, 71-68.
“It all started with Melo,” said Sulaimon, who had 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting to go with seven assists. “He made a great read and kicked it to Jake. Jake is a great shooter but that speaks volumes about the trust we have in each other. He thought I had a better shot and when he passed it to me that gave me confidence.”
Big Michal Cekovsky, coming up big in the big game, was isolated defensively on the previously almost unstoppable Bradley Hayes and forced a miss on the half hook that had killed the Terrapins all night. Damonte Dodd yanked down the rebound with under 40 seconds to play.
After a timeout, Trimble missed on a drive but Carter kept it alive and Trimble hustled to the baseline to get it, and was fouled. He hit both free throws for a 73-68 lead with 12.3 seconds remaining.
Smith-Rivera threw in a three at the other end with 4.7 seconds left.
Trimble wound up at the line after another foul and his two free throws put the final points on the board. The Terrapins had a commanding edge at the line, as Georgetown coach John Thompson III pointed out a couple of times. Maryland was 23-of-32, while Georgetown was 9-of-12. In the second half, the Terrapins were 17-of-22 to the Hoyas’ 7-of-10.
But Trimble being Trimble penetrated and drew defenders and fouls. So did Sulaimon and then Carter and Layman, who had 15 points, found holes in the fringes of the Georgetown zone to cause breakdowns, too.
“We just wanted to make the right play,” said Carter. “We just kept saying it over and over. In the huddle, we looked each other in the eye and said we’ve got enough confidence in each other to pull this thing out.”
The Terrapins, for the first time, missed injured Dion Wiley. Without that backcourt piece, Maryland couldn’t match up properly with the Hoyas, who shot 50 percent in the second half and 27-of-56 (48.2 percent) for the game. Even more troublingly, the Terrapins got outrebounded 36-28, and gave up 10 offensive rebounds and 17 second chance points.
The Hoyas had five players in double figures, led by Hayes, who had 16 points and eight rebounds, and Smith-Rivera, who had 14.
Earlier, Maryland trailed by five when Cekovsky got a big steal underneath. The Terrapins ended up with a three from Layman at 9:34 to make it 53-51. Hayes, the 7-foot senior, hit a hook to make it 55-51.
Jared Nickens, who was 0-for-4 from 3-point range to that point, finally canned one at 8:16 to make it 55-54, the closest Maryland had been since the opening minutes of the half. L.J. Peak drew a foul inside and hit two free throws for Georgetown, and then Trimble drew a foul on the Hoyas, who were starting to get in serious trouble in that department and had a depleted bench when Tre Campbell couldn’t go in the second half.
But Trimble, who hit 13-of-18 at the line (Georgetown only had 12 attempts as a team) on the night, missed both attempts.
Isaac Copeland got a stickback after a flurry on the glass and then Derrickson drew a charge on Trimble. When Copeland hit a 15-footer at 5:48, Georgetown’s lead was back to 61-54. Copeland had 13 points, six rebounds and five assists.
“We had to get stops and make the right play, like I said earlier,” said Carter. “I repeat myself but I just want everyone to get it right.”
“He’s like ‘Dad’,” laughed Sulaimon.
Maryland needed the fatherly advice, slow to start the second half. The Terrapins missed their first five field goal attempts while cashing in on free throws from Layman and Trimble, Trimble’’s at 17:44 to tie the game 37-37. But the Hoyas, hit five of their first 10 shots, and went on a 6-0 run. Smith-Rivera scored over Sulaimon on a tough drive and then Copeland got a follow dunk. Hayes scored on a well-executed pick and roll, and when freshman big man Jessie Govan hit one of two at the line at 14:29, Georgetown’s lead was 44-37.
Layman got another free throw and Trimble made a big play with a steal and lay-in at 13:48 to bring Maryland within 43-40. Maryland would stay within four points the next few minutes thanks to Layman’s work inside the Hoyas’ 2-3 zone. He got a dunk from Trimble and the drove baseline for a reverse lay-up at 11:31, to make it 48-46.
“We got in our groove and it didn’t matter what they played us,” said Sulaimon.
Cekovsky had four points, hitting two dunks to go with three rebounds and two steals in 14 minutes. Nickens had five points, the big three and a leaner in traffic down the stretch. Dodd finished with three rebounds and the only other Terp to play was Jaylen Brantley, who got one minute.
Copeland’s long 3-pointer came just after the halftime buzzer to keep this one tied 33-33 at intermission. The game was even, both teams with 15 rebounds and seven turnovers at the half. Sulaimon’s savvy as some of his perimeter teammates struggled (Trimble and Layman were a combined 2-of-9 shooting) and Carter’s 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting saved Maryland.
Trailing by seven, the Terrapins took a timeout and rediscovered their game late in the first half. Trimble, who was cold from the perimeter, hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it 28-24 at 4:11, and ignite an 8-0 Terrapin run. Cekovsky got his second dunk from Sulaimon, who was on his way to six first half assists. After a Georgetown turnover, he dropped the ball back to Trimble for a three in transition and Maryland regained the lead 29-28 at 3:03.
Copeland stopped the run with a 3-pointer of his own at 2:36 to put the Hoyas ahead. Trimble hit one of two free throws to make it a one-point game. Hayes hit a hook to make it 33-30 at 42 seconds, but Sulaimon drilled a three at 20 seconds to knot the score 33-33.
The Terrapins had overcome a slow start to lead by three midway through the first half, the Hoyas missing five straight shots, But when Georgetown got its first field goal in 7:39, it was a big 3-pointer from Smith-Rivera to tie the game 14-14 at 9:46. A lay-up by Peak in transition put the Hoyas back in front at 9:16, but Carter answered inside and Diamond Stone, who had five points and rebound in 14 minutes, hit two free throws to make it 18-16 at 7:24..
But then Georgetown went on 12-3 spree, starting to warm up from the perimeter, and the Terrapins not getting around screens. Derrickson hit two threes during the run and when Peak put in a jumper at 4:26, the Hoyas led 28-21, their biggest lead since the opening minutes.
After such a long wait for this game in Maryland’s building, it didn’t start the way the Terrapins had hoped. Maryland missed it’s first three shots and dug a little bit of a hole, the Hoyas using high screens to get to the basket and run up a 9-0 lead by the 17:25 mark when Copeland scored on a floater.
Sulaimon finally got the lid off the basket with a 15-footer at 16:47, and then Carter got two free throws. When Stone hit a foul-line jumper, the Terrapins were within 9-6, and in the midst of a 12-2 run.
Sulaimon hit another jumper, then got a steal and fed Carter for a two-hand dunk to nearly bring the roof off Xfinity. When he drove through the Hoyas’ 2- 3 zone and fed Cekovsky for a dunk at 13:31, Maryland led 12-11.
“I told our guys at the end of the game this is exactly what we needed,” said Turgeon. “We figured out how to win the game. It lets us know that we’re not invincible. I keep saying we’re finding ourselves, we’re nowhere near where we’re going to be.”
Maryland returns to action Friday, hosting Rider at 7:30, before taking to the road for the first time to play in the Cancun Challenge.
The Gavitt Tipoff Games are an annual early season series inaugurated this year and named for Dave Gavitt, founder of the Big East. Maryland and Georgetown are slated to meet again next year in the Verizon Center on the Hoyas’ home court.