WASHINGTON, D.C. – Kevin Huerter said he had never won a game in high school on a defensive play.
Two games into his college career, the lanky redhead already has such a play a under his belt, and it propelled Maryland to a 76-75 win over rival Georgetown Tuesday night at Verizon Center. The 6-7 Huerter blocked Hoya freshman Jagan Mosley’s layup with one second left, and the Terrapins hung on for a win in game they trailed in by seven with 1:11 left.
“I recruited (Huerter) as a shot-blocker,” joked Turgeon of the sharpshooter from Clifton Park., N.Y. “He was actually a 6-3 point guard when I started recruiting him and now he’s 6-7, and long and athletic. It’s amazing what he has done in such a short time.”
Huerter, like many, many players on this night, got in early foul trouble, but finished with six points, two assists, a steal and two blocks, including the biggest one of the season so far. “I thought to myself go straight up,” he said. “I thought he might lean in and go around. When I went up, I was mainly trying to contest the shot and I blocked it off the backboard. It was tight both ways, but in a position like that I was glad they let us play.”
Of course Melo Trimble with his 21 points – 17 in the second half, 11 in the last 3:31 after Maryland trailed by eight – was the ringleader of the late circus, but Huerter and a couple of fellow freshmen made plays, too. Anthony Cowan had 11 points, five assists, three steals and dissected the Hoyas’ defense when Maryland needed it most.
Justin Jackson had a great all-around game with 17 points, team-high seven rebounds and 3-of-5 shooting from deep, again many at just the right times to swing momentum. “This showed me I can persevere through tough times and tough environments,” Jackson said. “We fouled a lot, and rebounding and boxing out are things coach always tells us to work on. It was a little frustrating (56 fouls on both teams) but every time we huddled up we said just keep pushing. This was a great environment. I’ve never played on an NBA court so it was a great feeling.”
The Terrapins (2-0) hope to keep that feeling going. They have a quick turnaround, hosting St. Mary’s College (of Maryland) Thursday night at 7 p.m., in Xfinity Center. They’re also home Sunday to Towson for a 2 p.m., tilt and again Tuesday, Nov. 22 against Stony Brook.
They probably won’t prepare for those games like they did for this one with Georgetown (1-1). “I was worried sick,” said Turgeon. “We went twice on Sunday (practicing). We went 2 ½ hours yesterday. We had a walk-thru last night. We had a walk-thru this morning because I knew how good Georgetown was.”
The work paid off defensively for the Terrapins who held the Hoyas to 32 percent shooting (16-of-50), but Georgetown made up for it at the free throw line, cashing in 37 times on 42 trips to the line. They attacked the Terrapins and battled them on the glass (35-34 Georgetown edge) and got every Maryland big man in trouble.
The Terps were already down in that department with Michal Cekovsky missing his second straight game with a sprained right foot. Maryland wasn’t sharp offensively, though, until they had to be. “We spent so much time in press offense that our half court offense wasn’t as good as it could be,” said Turgeon. “Except for fouling we really defended well.”
With Trimble taking control, though, Maryland scored 17 points on its last eight possessions. Before falling behind midway through the second half, Maryland had been engaged in a nip-and-tuck affair despite racking up 32 fouls.
When the Hoyas picked up their third foul of the second half at 9:56, with Maryland already credited for eight, Turgeon let the officials have it and was hit with a technical foul. L.J. Peak knocked down two free throws, the 10th of the second half for Georgetown, and the Hoyas led 51-47. They had gone ahead on two Jessie Govan freebies at 10:12.
“It was a two-point game and all of the sudden we’re down eight or nine,” said Turgeon. “I didn’t try to get the technical but I got it. I felt bad for the team, that I let them down. In the end, we just kept playing.”
Whether such things change momentum or not, the Hoyas picked up two fouls on the ensuing possession, and when Jared Nickens missed a short jumper, Ivan Bender got a key tip-in to make it 51-49 at 9:38. Bender was big off the bench with his defense to go with nine points and six rebounds. Damonte Dodd had four points, four blocks and five rebounds in 24-foul plagued minutes, and L.G. Gill, with four fouls like Dodd and Cowan, never got to be much of a factor with just two points.
Peak hit a big 3-pointer to stretch the lead to five at 9:13, but Trimble answered on a drive. After a Maryland timeout, Robert Morris transfer Rodney Pryor nailed another deep corner 3-pointer, and this time Jackson scored on a drive to make it 57-53 at 8:13.
The 6-5 Peak, a tough perimeter matchup for Maryland, drove for a bucket and the next time down hit one of two free throws to make it 60-53 with 6:39 left. With Maryland’s foul trouble, the Hoyas spread the Terps out and attacked the basket with impunity.
Terrapin Turnaround Late
The Hoyas stretched the lead to nine at 65-56 with 4:25 left, when Govan drilled two more free throws on his way to 12 points. The Terrapins couldn’t get closer than seven over the next few minutes, at least not until Trimble got a layup and then got two free throws at 1:38 to make it 68-63, after Mosely stepped out of bounds against Maryland pressure.
But out of a timeout, Peak, who had 19 of his 21 points in the second half, scored inside at 1:08. And that’s when Huerter made his first big play, dropping in a 3-pointer to make it 70-66 with just 54.4 seconds remaining.
Peak hit two free throws and then Jackson scored on an inbound play for Maryland to keep the lead at four points with 29.9 seconds remaining. Peak hit one of two free throws and suddenly the Verizon Center door was open for the Terrapins.
Cowan drew a foul and his two free throws at 19.6 seconds to make it 73-70. Pryor, the hero of Georgetown’s opening win, was called for a travel as Maryland again pressed. Cowan was back at the free throw line with 18.3 seconds and again drilled both. Now it was 73-72, and all 13,145 fans in the Verizon Center were on their feet.
Dion Wiley fouled Tre Campbell, and Campbell hit both freebies at 17.2 seconds. Trimble drove the length of the court for a tough layup at 11 seconds. More Maryland pressure and Campbell stepped out of bounds after receiving a pass. Then on the 56th foul of the game, Peak became the first player to foul out with seven seconds remaining. Trimble hit both free throws and improbably, incredibly, Maryland led 76-75, setting the stage for the final sequence.
“This is how crazy basketball is,” said Turgeon. “I was yelling ‘foul’ at the top of my lungs. We don’t foul on the double team. He dribbles out. I yell ‘foul’ again and he steps out of bounds. We were very fortunate.”
“It was a crazy game,” said Trimble, who was 7-of-9 at the line and 7-of-13 from the field. “They pretty much had the lead all of the second half and we just kept fighting. We played with a group of freshman that have never been in that environment before, and for them to play like they did and step up was very special.”
Trimble scored to put Maryland ahead to start the second half, and Cowan went coast-to-coast for another layup at 17:56 to make it 35-31, but then Georgetown took over as Maryland picked up five fouls in the first 3:36 of the second half, including the third one whistled on Dodd, Bender, Huerter and Gill. The Hoyas hit four straight free throws and led 38-37, when Cowan broke the press and dashed down to feed Jackson, who drained a deep three to put the Terrapins back on top, 40-38, at 16:16.
Jackson hit another one from Cowan and Maryland led by five, but Peak hit a 15-footer and then Govan scored on a drive to make it 43-42. When Pryor hit a 3-pointer on the break after a Dodd miss, the score was tied again, 45-45 with 12:13 to play. Pryor finished with 14 points, including three 3-pointers, and Issac Copelan added 13, hitting 7-of-8 free throws.
Turgeon thought the game being an early season meeting accounted for some of the sloppy play and fouls. In the end, Turgeon put the ball in Trimble’s hands. “We’ve got great shooters around him – Jared Nickens, Justin hit some threes, Anthony and Kevin, try to guard that lineup when we spaced it,” explained Turgeon. “Then we’ve got this guy going downhill. He’s the best in the country going downhill, but I don’t want to make it a Melo Show with 35 minutes left in the game. Maybe I waited a little too long but we had to space the floor. And we’re not making shots yet. We’re going to start making shots.”
Maryland was 7-of-27 from 3-point range.
Frenetic First Half
The two teams were tied 31-31 at the half in a game that had very little flow thanks to 29 fouls whistled in the first 20 minutes. The Hoyas took full advantage, hitting 16-of-18 at the line. Otherwise, Georgetown struggled offensively, hitting just 29.2 percent (7-of-24) against the smaller Terrapins in the first half. Maryland battled even on the boards, 18-18, but could hit just 4-of-16 from long distance and only 11-of-29 overall from the field. Turgeon thinks the Terrapins, particularly Trimble and Cowan are still finding their way up top running the offense.
Georgetown seemed to have some momentum late, but Jaylen Brantley, after missing a 3-pointer, got a steal on defense and turned it into a layup for Cowan in transition, a 3-point play that tied the score 24-24. Bender scored inside from Cowan and Maryland went ahead at 3:44. When Nickens hit a baseline three from Huerter, it was 29-24 at 2:47.
But Georgetown scored seven of the last nine points, and tied it up with 38.5 seconds left on two free throws by Jonathan Mulmore.
Establishing themselves defensively in the paint earlier, the Terrapins went on a 10-0 run to lead 14-7 at 12:34 on two Bender free throws. But the Hoyas punched back with a 10-0 run of their own, holding Maryland without a field goal for five minutes and 21 seconds before Jackson got a stickback on a Trimble miss to make it 17-16, Georgetown at 7:51.
The Hoyas missed 14 of their first 17 shots but hung around thanks to hitting 11 of 12 free throws in the first 14 minutes. Dodd’s stickback of an errant Brantley 3-pointer at 6:38 tied the game 18-18.
Eight Terrapins finished the first half with two fouls apiece, and four Hoyas in a Tuesday tussle that played like a Thursday NFL game.
But now there’s the question of when local fans will get this delectable matchup again. The rivalry renewed with the Hoyas last year after basically being dormant since 1993 when the Terrapins won 84-83 at the old Capital Center. The two teams did meet in the 2001 NCAA Tournament, Maryland winning in Anaheim, Calif., on the way to the Final Four, and again in 2007, Georgetown crushing the Terrapins in the early season Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla.
The home-and-home rivalry resumed last year, Maryland hosting and beating the Hoyas 75-71 in the first Dave Gavitt Tipoff Games, an annual series between Big Ten and Big East teams. It was Georgetown’s first appearance on Maryland’s campus since the 1973-74 season. Maryland leads the series between the two schools located 20 miles apart, 38-27. The first game was played in 1910, but was discontinued as an annual contest in 1980, with just four meetings since then.
There is no agreement in place to continue the game next year, though Turgeon and Georgetown coach John Thompson III, have both talked about discussing the matter prior to the contest.
“We’re going to enjoy tonight,” said Turgeon. “For us we’ve been on the lucky side the last two years. At the eight minute timeout both years, they’ve been up six or eight and we’ve been able somehow to win the games. Let us enjoy it. I loved the arena at the end. ‘Let’s go Maryland. Let’s go Georgetown.’ But that’s down the road. John and I will talk about it if we’re going to do it again.”