COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Robert Carter, Jr., was at the Xfinity Center at 6:30 the morning of Jan. 16. Maryland wouldn’t host Ohio State until noon in a key Big Ten Conference game.
Carter wasn’t on hand early getting up shots just because the No. 3 Terrapins lost at Michigan on Tuesday for the first time in over a month. Nope, Carter was there because that’s what he does.
“I love this game a lot and it’s my joy to play at this level,” he said. “Anytime I can get in the gym and get extra shots, I do that.”
Carter, the junior transfer from Georgia Tech, laughed that he shot until he got hot. Well, he must have got pretty hot. He went out against Ohio State, a team tied with Maryland in the conference standings before noon, and scored a career-high 25 points to key a 100-65 thrashing of a pretty good, albeit young and inconsistent team.
“We wanted to bounce back strong and show the country what we could do,” admitted Carter, if not the voice of the team, certainly the will of the Terrapins. “We’re a competitive group and we didn’t bring our competitiveness to the (Michigan) game. And this week we just competed. Sometimes we compete harder in practice than we do in games. We have to bring that same intensity to the game.”
Well, after a slow back-and-forth start with the Buckeyes, Maryland (16-2, 5-1) brought it. Ohio State (12-7, 4-2) couldn’t handle it before another sellout home crowd at Xfinity, most who arrived much later than Carter.
The lesson to be learned? Fear the Turtle, particularly after a loss. After suffering their first setback in 10 games, the Terrapins bounced back. And how. They held Ohio State to 29 percent shooting (8-of-27) in the second half and ended up coasting to the win, the ninth time in the last two years Maryland has come back from a loss with a victory the next time out.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon could live without all the histrionics after a Terrapins loss. He pointed out the season is only a third of the way done. “I’m not going to tell you everything I said after the game at Michigan, but obviously Melo (Trimble) didn’t have his best game. We missed a lot of shots and we play against a team that makes 12 threes, they’re really good at home and they’re well-coached. And we have a shot to tie it. I’m like, ‘Guys, we’re pretty good so let’s don’t get caught up in all this.’ Let’s move on.”
Turgeon didn’t even show the team film of the game, something Trimble, who was 1-of-7 from the field and had two points, said he was happy about. Trimble was more his old self Jan. 16 afternoon. He had eight points and nine assists, no turnovers after the first eight minutes, and simply facilitated his teammates to roll up their highest scoring game of the year and absolutely destroy a team had won eight of the last nine.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta gave Trimble a lot of the credit for Maryland “playing as well as any team (he) ever coached against.” But Trimble had a lot of help as all the nagging worries of recent weeks – not enough depth in the backcourt, not enough scoring punch off the bench other than Diamond Stone – melted away.
“Today for the first time in a while we really shared the ball at a high level and looked like a team again,” said Turgeon.
Big Ten Blowout
The Terrapins turned a taut game early into a laugher. The Maryland lead reached 44 points in the second half, 91-47, at 7:10 when Jake Layman dunked and hit a free throw for one of Maryland’s four three-point plays. Trimble, who was consistently beating Buckeye defensive rotations, was almost always involved.
The Terrapins registered a season-high 23 assists and after some ups and downs in recent road games, suddenly everyone was a threat to score again, especially Carter; Rasheed Sulaimon, who had a season-high 22 points, and Stone, who had 15 points and six rebounds off the bench, to go with some solid defense.
Every Terp played and 10 of them scored. Maryland shot 62.7 percent (37-of-59) and scored 100 points for the first time since Dec. 5, 2012, when Maryland Eastern Shore fell 100-68 here.
Turgeon said the Terrapins began to look like themselves this week following the tough 70-67 loss to the Wolverines. They had their best practice of the season Thursday, and then on Friday, shared the ball in a way they hadn’t recently. “I knew that would carry over,” said the coach.
The Terrapins shot 63.3 percent (19-of-30) to build a 48-30 lead at the half, the 48 points the most Maryland has scored in a first half so far this year. Carter, who had the hot hand early, had 15 points to lead the way but Sulaimon added 13, and Stone again gave the team a lift off the bench with seven first half points.
Ohio State started hot, too, but trailed off against Maryland’s harassing defense to finish at 14-of-32 (43.8 percent).
“We were just locked in (defensively),” said Sulaimon, who was locked in at both ends, hitting nine of his 10 shots. “We have all the talent. We have all the pieces necessary to be a great defensive team. It’s just about will and having good discipline. I thought we were very focused coming into the game.”
How good was the Maryland defense late in the half? Well, Varun Ram, doing what Varun Ram does, single-handedly broke up a 3-on-1 Buckeyes fastbreak, forcing a travel. Later, Trimble did the same thing, hustling back to force a bad shot and start the Terrapins the other way.
“I learned a lot about out team at Michigan,” said Turgeon. “I learned that Varun Ram is pretty important to us, and he can really help us since it gives us another really good defender on the floor, and takes more pressure off Melo Trimble.”
“I don’t think teams realize how good of a defender he is until they’re out there with him,” said Trimble who butts head with Ram in each practice. “He’s a key to our team.”
To start the second half, Maryland forced Ohio State into 12 misses in the first 13 Buckeye shots. Ohio State, shooting .455 on the season, shot their second worst percentage (.373) of the season. The Terrapins were active with seven steals (two apiece from Carter and Layman) and five blocked shots (two by Layman to go with his 10 points).
“We just wanted to bounce back and play strong,” said Carter. “We wanted to show the country that we had a slip up but we’re a serious team.”
Practice Makes Perfect
Carter, who regularly calls up graduate assistant coach John Auslander or a manager at all hours to get in some extra shooting, doesn’t leave much to chance. The extra work the morning of Jan. 16 led to a 10-of-13 shooting day (He is 17-of-24 the last two games) and his best scoring game ever as a Terp or a Yellow Jacket. He was 4-of-4 from 3-point range and 1-of-1 at the line, to go with five rebounds and two assists.
“He just took his shots,” said Sulaimon. “We executed our offense perfectly and Rob is a tough matchup. He’s a 6-9 power forward who can really stretch the court. He’s a real mismatch problem. So we just ran our offense and he took his shots when he was open.”
“What Carter did tonight was incredible,” said Matta, a little more succinctly. Carter is becoming one of the most feared players in the Big Ten for that ability to mismatch defenders.
Carter scored Maryland’s first eight points in a variety of ways, a scoop on a three-point play, a 3-pointer and a tip-in of his own miss. The Buckeyes led 9-8 at 16:16, though, when center Trevor Thompson hit a hook.
“I feel like we made the right play, I made shots and my teammates starting finding me,” Carter said.
First Half Run
The Buckeyes had whittled a 10-point lead down to 34-26 at 4:29 when Thompson got a stickback after a flurry on the Ohio State glass. But Maryland reeled off 12 of the next 14 points, getting out in transition out of that rugged defense. Sulaimon scored on a drive and Jared Nickens hit his second three to start the run. When Layman scored on the break following a Nickens’ blocked shot, the Terrapins were ahead 46-28, and would carry that 18-point margin into the locker room.
Nickens, who had hit just five of his last 30 shots over six games, had six points on 2-of-4 shooting and helped stretch Ohio State’s defense, which has been unsteady on the road this season, the sign of a young squad.
Turgeon has kept feeding Nickens minutes because the rest of his game has been good, but his return to form makes the Terrapins even tougher. Ram played 14 minutes and also hit a second half 3-pointer to the delight of the crowd. Jaylen Brantley looked explosive late, too, with four points and two assists.
Maryland went ahead for good in the first half when Trimble got the ball to Stone for a three-point play, Stone making an acrobatic lay-up and converting for a 16-13 lead at 13:29. It was 19-17, Terps, when they ran off seven straight points – Trimble feeding Layman for an old-fashioned three-point play, Layman then sticking in his own miss and then Stone dunking on a hockey-style assist from Carter in the paint, initiated by Trimble, who had six first half assists.
It was 28-19 at 8:22 when the Maryland defense started to really take control, Carter blocking a shot that started a break that saw Trimble lob to Stone for a dunk. The lead reached 10 points at 7:21, Sulaimon driving into the paint, completely turning around and kicking back to Carter for a 3-pointer to make it 31-21.
Maryland closed the half on that 14-4 run, then the second stanza on a 34-10 blitz.
Ohio State got 15 points from Keita Diop-Bates, 12 from Jae’Sean Tate, and 10 from Thompson.
The Terrapins have another home date, Tuesday against Northwestern before playing three of the following four on the road.