COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Damonte Dodd flashed a grin when asked if he had fulfilled the mission coach Mark Turgeon gave his Terrapins to smile more during the Feb. 21 game.
“We smiled more but I don’t think Coach Turgeon smiled too much,” said the junior center after a big game off the bench in Maryland’s 86-82 win over Michigan. “We have to expect that from him. It’s tough coaching so we just try to lift him up.”
Turgeon’s last week, with back-to-back losses for the first time in two years and the 23-5 Terps slipping to No. 6 in the national rankings and out of first place in the Big Ten, now at 11-4, had been tough. The upset at last place Minnesota Feb. 18 set the smile mantra in motion as Maryland returned home where they have now won 28 of their last 29 games.
“We just talked about being who we are,” said Turgeon of the team’s focus. “That’s the one thing we talked about yesterday when we met was that we have to smile more. Then I didn’t do my part. I don’t like turnovers and I don’t like lay-ups so I didn’t smile enough.”
All the Terrapins were smiling during a first half Maryland run that led to a 16-point lead, one of the best stretches of basketball the Terrapins have put together in a month. But Michigan (19-9, 9-6) battled back, to make a game of it, and lead several times in the second half.
“We’re fine,” said Robert Carter, Jr., of the “urgency” around the team. “We have a lot of confidence in each other. We trust the process and we’re getting better every day. It’s a long season.”
Carter did his part with a team-high 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting, and a couple of big buckets late as the game was being decided. He teamed with Dodd inside to give Maryland a force in the lane that translated into a 33-30 rebound advantage and 40 points in the paint. Maryland had 13 second chance points.
Dodd, coming off his six blocked shots at Minnesota in what Turgeon called the best defensive game of his career, picked up where he left off with two more blocks, seven rebounds and six points. He kept plays alive on the offensive end and shut them down on defense.
“He played huge, caused a lot of havoc around the rim,” said Carter, who had six rebounds. “We wanted to stay close to their shooters. He’s big for us in the middle, helping over and making them adjust their game plan.”
Jake Layman had 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting (3-of-4 from three) in 35 minutes. He hit some big threes at opportune times and after some early struggles guarding Duncan Robinson, one of the many Wolverines that can beat you deep, held him to 4-of-10 shooting and 10 points.
There were two offenses that came to play Feb. 21. The Wolverines shot 47.1 percent (32-of-68) and were even better from long range at 48.1 percent (12-of-27). Maryland connected on 54.4 percent (31-of-57) but those turnovers (18 of them) helped the Wolverines back into the game and didn’t let Turgeon smile until after this one was over, the Terrapins securing a win for the 12th time in 13 games after a loss since 2014.
“I just told the guys that we’re a heck of a basketball team,” said Turgeon. “We are 23-5. Let’s don’t forget who we are, what we are about. I just try to be real positive. I met individually with them, just talked to them and told them that I love them, believe in them and that we are going to be fine.”
Frantic Final Minutes
All those warm fuzzies were tested in the next to last home game. Maryland was down three with 5:28 left when two Melo Trimble free throws closed it to 75-74. Twenty-eight seconds later, Carter missed a jumper and Dodd kept it alive as Carter soared in for a tip-in to put the Terapins back in front. Dodd’s defensive rebound started a possession that ended with a strong Carter drive and a 78-75 lead at 3:30.
Layman hit two free throws but Michigan answered with Zak Irvin’s 3-pointer to make it 80-78 at 2:45. Irvin was one of many tough matchups as Turgeon tried to stay big against the Wolverines’ outside-in attack.
Carter tipped in a Layman miss at 2:23, and Irvin and then Mark Donnal missed threes. Michigan pulled within 82-79 at 1:03 when Derrick Walton, Jr., hit one of two free throws and then after a Trimble miss, the Wolverines had a chance to tie or close within one. Walton went hard to the basket but Rasheed Sulaimon stayed with him, Walton called for an offensive foul, extending his arm to ward off Sulaimon, at 18 seconds.
Sulaimon hit both free throws, part of a 17-19 effort for the Terrapins at the line on the day. Robinson then hit an unbelievable three – “That’s the way it has gone for us in this stretch,” said Turgeon – with Layman all over him, and it was 84-82 as the clock ticked under seven seconds.
Trimble, who still didn’t shoot the ball well (3-of-10) to go with seven turnovers, was fouled and drilled both free throws to make it 86-82 with 5.5 seconds left. The sophomore guard was 7-of-8 at the line, had a team-high eight rebounds and three steals with his 14 points. Turgeon said Trimble looked more “comfortable.”
“They did a good job on Melo,” he added. “On the step-up screens they came from behind and tipped about three out of his hands. They doubled him off every other screen and made him give it up. Everybody makes so much of Melo, and I said this (before) we were 17-15 before he got here and we’re 51-12 since he’s been here.”
After Trimble’s free throws, Jaylen Brantley, who had one of his best games, stole the inbound pass and ran out the clock to the relief of another 17,950 on hand in Xfinity.
Diamond Stone had 13 points, 10 in the first half, to go with five rebounds. Sulaimon had a tidy eight points on 3-of-5 shooting, and four assists. Brantley had five, including a big three in the first half run, and three steals.
“I am so happy for that kid,” said Turgeon. “Jaylen never hung his head, kept practicing hard. When I started to go with Varun (Ram) over him, that’s when he turned it on and starting practicing well.”
Brantley has played at least 10 minutes in each of the last four games, scoring 19 points over that span and altering the rotation off the bench. The Maryland bench had an 18-6 advantage over Michigan, Jared Nickens also chipping in six points to assist Dodd and Brantley.
“We just tried to keep a positive mindset and Coach told us that we’re going to run into bumps during the season,” said Dodd, who has hit 6 of his last eight shots over four games. “Coming off the loss to Minnesota, we wanted to stay positive and play our best.”
Early in the second half, the Wolverines regained the lead for the first time since 15:40 of the first half. After Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman stole an inbound and scored to tie the game, Stone hit one of two free throws, and then Donnal dunked for a 49-48 Michigan lead at 16:22.
Maryland didn’t have an answer for the burly, 6-9 Donnal, who hit 10-of-13 shots, 3-of-4 behind the arc and had 25 points. Turgeon confessed the screen that Michigan was running to free him up was something they didn’t work on in the brief practice time after returning from Minnesota.
“We weren’t great defensively and they’re hard to guard,” he said. “They exposed our weaknesses, just like we exposed them. Finally at end we started switching that middle ball screen. It’s funny because yesterday I told (the team) our path to success is through our defense, because that has been our most constant thing. And today, it wasn’t. It was through our offense.”
The lead changed hands eight times over the next three minutes, both teams finding their offensive game. Trimble put the Terps up 57-56 on a driving layup, and after his miss in transition, Stone kept it alive to Layman, who canned a 3-pointer. Irvin scored for Michigan. Trimble got the ball to Stone on the move but he lost the ball, Dodd grabbing it and dunking it for a three-point play at 12:29 to make it 63-58.
Layman drilled another three, this one from the baseline to push the lead to eight.
After a Michigan timeout, the Wolverines got a huge second chance basket, Abdur-Rahkim hitting a 3-pointer. Dodd got a dunk from Carter and then forced Ricky Doyle into a point-blank miss that turned into a Sulaimon hook that made it 70-61 at 10:29.
The Wolverines clawed back, though. A 12-2 run, through some questionable Maryland shot-selection, put Michigan back in front. It was 73-72, Michigan, at 6:34 when Abdur-Rahkman took a defensive rebound away from Layman, scored, and was fouled for a three-point play. Adbur-Rahkim had 16 points, and Walton, 14.
Donnal got a stickback over Dodd, one of the big Terp’s few bad moments, and Maryland trailed by three with 5:28 to play.
Big Runs In First Half
The Terrapins led 41-36 at the half, weathering a storm that saw the Wolverines score 19 of the last 26 points after trailing 33-17 at 5:46. Maryland’s defense had built the lead but the Wolverines got a couple of buckets when the Terrapins got sloppy on offense. Michigan had 15 points off 12 Maryland turnovers.
Then the visitors threw in five 3-pointers in the last 5:23 after a cold start from distance and suddenly it was game on.
The game was tied at 12, when Maryland had run off 14 straight points. Nickens started the spree with a three and then a couple of Dodd blocks fueled the fastbreak. Stone hit two free throws and then Carter got a dunk. Stone tipped in a Nickens’ miss, Brantley hit a three, and then got a steal and lay-in to make it 26-12 at 9:51.
Michigan’s scoring drought of five minutes and seven seconds ended when Abdur-Rahkman hit one of two free throws, but Carter got a three-point play from Trimble to make it 29-13.
Michigan, which hit just five of its first 17 shots, began to heat up. Kameron Chatman and Walton hit back-to back threes, and Walton got a steal and layup to cut the lead to 10. Adbur-Rahkman got another steal and score, and when Donnal hit a 3-pointer, it was 35-30 with 2:57 remaining.
Stone hit a jumper and then got a layup from Brantley but Michigan drained two more 3-pointers, finishing 7-of-16 for the half. Maryland shot 55.6 percent (15-of-27) but hurt the cause with those 12 turnovers.
“Coach wanted us to smile more, get back to being us,” said Carter. “We’re a happy team. We want to come out and enjoy the game, playing for each and get victories.
Turgeon summed up the Terrapins’ bounce back. “It was more about what was between our ears and in our hearts today.”
Next up is a trip to Purdue Saturday, Feb. 27. The final home game – Senior Night – is March 3, against Illinois.