COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- How often do you see a key player foul out and THEN become the focal point of his team’s victory?
That’s what Robert Carter, Jr., did in Maryland’s 74-68 Big Ten win over No. 3 Iowa Jan. 28 at Xfinity Center. The vocal leader for 8th-ranked Maryland, Carter led a defensive effort that proved the difference in a game that, though no one wanted to say it, was probably a must-win for Maryland (18-3, 7-2 Big Ten).
“He really took ownership of that huddle when he fouled out,” said Rasheed Sulaimon, who like Carter, had 17 points. “He was demonstrative in telling us, ‘We’re going to win this game. You guys are going to go out there and do it.’ He took over the huddle. Coach (Mark Turgeon) didn’t even have to say anything.”
Carter fouled out on a play where it first appeared he got fouled, Maryland leading by two with just 1:48 to play. “We were mad,” said Turgeon. “But Robert’s energy was terrific. He was so positive with the guys and with me, llke ‘We’re fine, Coach, don’t worry about that.’ I give all the credit to Robert. He terrific after he fouled out.”
The Terrapins needed that intangible and a loud, engaged sellout crowd of 17,950 to best really-tough Iowa (16-4, 7-1), hand the Hawkeyes their first Big Ten loss and end their nine-game winning streak.
“It was a big win, it was two top teams going at it in a big conference matchup,” said Sulaimon, who hit 6-of-11 shots and had five assists to go with that game-high 17 points. “Iowa is a heck of a team and we knew we were going to have to play pretty much our best to beat them.”
For much of the game, the Terrapins did just that despite off nights offensively from Melo Trimble and Jake Layman, both of whom found other ways to make major contributions. Sulaimon and Carter, who hit 7-of-11 shots and had seven rebounds and four assists, picked up the slack., Carter even after he left the game.
“When I fouled out it was a really close game, and I was trying to get us focused on the next play rather than on me,” said Carter. “Who’s going to make the next shot? Who’s going to make the next stop? I was just trying to get us focused on the task at hand.”
Maryland, which led most of the way in the first battle ever of Top 10 teams in Xfinity Center, clung to that precarious two-point advantage into the final two minutes. It was 62-60 when Iowa’s star, Jarrod Uhoff, having his worst game of the year, hit two free throws at 2:17. Gritty Hawkeye point guard Mike Gesell had a chance to tie it up after Carter fouled out, fouling Gesell after Gesell stripped him when Carter went for a power dribble after an offensive rebound.
But Gesell missed – a second half pattern for both teams – from the line, and Layman snared the rebound. Turgeon took a timeout, and as Iowa scrapped their sticky matchup zone for a man-to-man, Layman fed Diamond Stone with a soft lob over a fronting defender. Stone dunked to make it 64-60 at 1:24, and then at the other end, Trimble, who was shut down offensively late, got a steal and started a fastbreak, Layman feeding Jared Nickens for a lay-in and a six-point lead with just 1:11 to go.
It was the largest margin of the second half to that point, and Maryland would make it stand up, though it wasn’t easy thanks to shaky 3-of-6 free throw shooting the next three possessions. Finally, Trimble, who didn’t have a field goal in the second half, hit five straight free throws in the final 17 seconds to nail down the big win.
Defensive Standoff in Second Half
Pesky Anthony Clemmons and a sticky 2-3 matchup zone did the number on Trimble, who finished with 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals.
But Maryland hit just 9-of-27 shots (33.3 percent) in the second half and was 0-for-10 behind the arc.
What the Terrapins did do was get to the free throw line. 22 of their 23 attempts in the game came after the half. They were 16-of-23 overall, and 15-of-22, fouling out 7-1 Adam Woodbury with 2:47 remaining. His absence set the stage for Stone’s dunk off Layman’s entry about a minute, 20 seconds later.
“They were small, Woodbury was out and I knew Diamond had an advantage,” said Turgeon. “Jake’s tall. He’s a good post-feeder, and as soon as I saw the kid start to front (Stone), I knew we had it.”
Stone had nine points, four rebounds and two blocks. Layman, who hit just 5-of-15 shots, had 11 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
Iowa, which was 9-of-15 at the stripe, was just 4-of-6 in the final 20 minutes. Peter Jok led the Hawkeyes with 14 points.
“We always try to play that way,” Turgeon said of Maryland’s ability to get to the free throw line. “I thought we had the floor spread a little better. We were getting downhill. I’m always trying to get inside, trying to get the guys to drive the ball, especially the way we’ve been shooting it the last few games. That was the difference.”
Maryland’s defense did the rest. The Terps held Iowa to 13-of-35 shooting (37.1 percent) in the second half and the Hawkeyes were just 3-of-15 from 3-point range. For the game, they shot 42.9 percent overall and 20.8 percent from deep (5-of-24). Uthoff was a miserable 2-of-13 for a season-low nine points, thanks to Carter and Layman, and skilled swingman Jok just 5-of-12, courtesy of Sulaimon.
“I thought they were locked in defensively and on the glass,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “They executed better than we did for stretches of the game. They were up on us, and active. They were physical and moved their feet. It’s harder to score.”
Turgeon said he thought his Terps looked fresher thanks to some time off for the team since the loss at Michigan State Saturday when a raucous crowd at the Breslin Center may have made a difference. “I think the whole world that cares about Maryland basketball was in a panic, and we weren’t,” he said. “We took two days off. We went harder Tuesday and we took yesterday off. We’re in a grind-session right now. We’ve got a tough schedule ahead of us.”
Woodbury and Stone, settling into a low-post grudge match, went at it midway through the second half, two big, talented players battling. Woodbury scored inside at 8:10, to put Iowa up 50-49, but down at the other end, Stone drew a fourth foul on him and put Maryland back in front with two free throws. The two teams traded the lead, a Carter jumper putting Maryland ahead for good, and then Stone getting a steal and feeding Sulaimon for a fastbreak score to make it 55-52 at 6:31, the biggest lead for either team in over four minutes.
Iowa whittled it back to 57-56 when Clemmons scored on a drive at 5:35. Sulaimon answered with a baseline drive and then Damonte Dodd got two tip-out rebounds and would hit one of two free throws for a four-point lead.
“I thought Damonte was off-the-charts good tonight,” said Turgeon of Dodd’s defense, five points and three rebounds in 15 minutes, as he gave way to Stone in the starting lineup.
The Terrapins had missed their first three shots and had a shot clock violation to open the second half, letting Iowa come back to take a 42-41 lead at 16:18 when Woodbury scored inside.
Carter hit one of two free throws, as Maryland began getting the ball inside and drawing fouls. Then his tip-dunk and subsequent free throw made it a three-point lead, then two Dodd free throws made it 47-42 at 13:29.
Rest and Relaxation Helped
Turgeon thought the time off gave Sulaimon fresher legs to have his big shooting night, but Sulaimon thought the break gave the Terrapins something else. “Obviously the rest was good but we grew a lot as a team,” he said. “We spent a lot of time talking and looking over what we could have done better, the things we did do well in the Michigan State game. All three games we lost, what were some of the reasons, and I think we grew as a team.”
Sulaimon said there were several players-only meetings, in East Lansing, and since the Terrapins returned Jan. 23. “We had some good team dinners and we were all on the same page today. I think that’s why we won.
Maryland, beaten up on the defensive glass the last two games, bounced back with a 38-35 rebounding edge Jan. 28, giving up 10 offensive rebounds but getting 10 of their own. “We’re a very resilient group and we learn from our losses,” added Layman. “Last game it was rebounding. I think we beat (Iowa) on the boards this game. It was good to get those days off and get our legs back. I think everyone was fresh tonight.”
“You always take that personally because we feel that we should be a great rebounding team,” said Carter. “We have a lot of size and a lot of guys. I feel like we box out, but we just haven’t been going to attack the ball and we’ve been looking at each other to get the ball instead.”
Maryland takes to the road now, heading to Ohio State Jan. 31, and then Nebraska Feb. 3. The next home game is Feb. 6 against Purdue. The victory kept the Terrapins undefeated at home in Big Ten games (13-0) and was the 25th straight home win for Maryland over two seasons.
Fantastic First Half
Maryland led 41-35 at the half of a game living up the hype to that point. The Terrapins shot nearly 55 percent and hit 6-of-15 3-pointers, and led by eight points on a couple of occasions. Foul trouble on Stone, who started for the first time in seven games (Rutgers), limited him to just eight minutes but Sulaimon came up big with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting, including three 3-pointers.
Carter and Layman limited Uthoff to 0-5 shooting, but the Hawkeyes were 14-of-28 overall.
After a turnover allowed Ahmad Wagner to score in transition to put Iowa up 29-28 at 4:54, Sulaimon answered with a quick 3-pointer 13 seconds later. Then Sulaimon forced Jok into a miss and on the break, Sulaimon kicked out to Trimble for another three and a 34-29 lead at 4:20.
The lead was back to 39-31 at 2:50, when Sulaimon hit a three on a feed from Carter. Iowa got the next four points, including a three by Uhl. Sulaimon closed the half with a high bank on a drive.
Trailing by eight earlier, Iowa roared back to tie the game with a 10-2 run. When Clemmons drilled a baseline three, it was 19-19 at 9:28.
Maryland led 10-9 at the 16-minute timeout, two heavyweights already flexing their muscles. Trimble hit a three for Maryland’s first score and then fed Carter on a three-point play for a 6-2 lead early. Carter had a spin move for a hoop but Woodbury proved a load early with five of Iowa’s first nine points.
The Terrapins ran off seven straight points, including five by Layman. His driving layup at 13:27, made it 17-9, and forced McCaffery to call timeout.