COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maybe it’s just getting to be standard operating procedure. The Terrapins fall behind, they figure out some way to hang around in the game and then they surge ahead at the end.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” said Melo Trimble of Maryland’s sixth harrowing victory in eight starts. “This time we weren’t even down double digits at the half. We just kept believing.”
Now count Oklahoma State among the believers, too. The Big 12 Cowboys were riding herd on a 12-point second half lead before the Terrapins rallied for a nail-biting 71-70 win at Xfinity Center.
The audible roar from the Maryland locker room after the game spoke to the significance of this comeback, though. Coming off their first loss of the season Tuesday against Pittsburgh, the Terrapins (8-1) got back in the saddle and rode off into the sunset thanks to solid performances from some old cowhands of their own.
Trimble had 13, but didn’t hit a three-pointer all night. He needed – and got – more help from two veterans, Jaylen Brantley and Damonte Dodd, each with 12, and some smothering defense the second half. This one wasn’t over until Jawun Evans, the third-leading scorer in the nation at 24.7 points per game, got a look at the basket at the buzzer, and well, nearly another look after the horn sounded as his desperation heave went in from the baseline in one of many mad scrambles in this contest.
“We figured it out,” said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. “We didn’t make any jump shots and then they went zone, but we got second chance points. We drove the ball a little bit better. This group, it’s amazing. All these young kids playing and we keep battling. I think everyone in our circle knew we were going to win the game.”
Trailing by 12 with under 12 to play, the Terrapins did it the way Turgeon really likes – on the defensive end. They started a run with Trimble on the bench, another positive sign.
The Cowboys (6-2) ended a scoring drought of over six minutes when Mitchell Solomon tipped in a miss to make it 62-61 at 5:44. Freshman Justin Jackson hit two free throws to put Maryland back in front, but OSU’s Lindy Waters scored inside off an Evans feed.
Brantley, on his way to a season scoring high, netted a three-point play on a drive. Evans missed a one-and-one, and Dodd got a big stickback, one of his team-high eight rebounds, at 2:18 to Maryland up 68-64. Evans scored on a drive, and two Phil Forte free throws knotted to score 68-68 at 1:26.
Trimble got one of two free throw at 38 seconds to put the Terps back ahead, but when he had to switch off on Evans at the other end, Evans drove and scored to make it 70-69 with 21 seconds remaining.
Then Melo had the final say.
He was fouled again at 9.4 seconds and calmly sank two, as the partisan throng of 17,391 roared its approval. The Cowboys inbounded quickly and Evans charged the length of court to get off a shot that bounded off the rim and right back to him. Evans got the rebound on the baseline and hurled it back up, the shot swishing through, but just after the buzzer as the replay clearly showed.
“Without the crowd I don’t think we would be able to make as many runs as we do here,” said Brantley, scoring more points even after the game. “The man over there (nodding at Trimble across the room) just puts us on his back and we find a way to win.”
“That last play, we had two plays called and they ran zone,” said Turgeon. “The big guys ran it perfectly, got Melo in the paint and he did the rest.”
But it was really the Terrapin defense that had saved the day, hog-tying the Cowboys to 34.6 percent shooting in the second half (9-of-26), and registering 20 points off 15 Oklahoma State turnovers in the game.
“Damonte Dodd’s defense in the second half was great,” added Turgeon. “We changed our ballscreen defense on Evans in the second half and I thought it helped us a little bit.”
Evans was 7-of-17 from the floor, finishing with 16 points, more than eight below his average. He got only six in the second half, Cowan doing most of the heavy-lifting but Trimble and Brantley also getting some work there, too.
Dodd helped seal up the middle after the Cowboys corralled 12 offensive rebounds in the first half. They had only six more in the final 20 minutes. Dodd had three blocked shots for the third straight game.
“I told our coaches that (Dodd is) one of my favorite players on the team,” said OSU coach Brad Underwood. “He impacts the game, whether it’s through defensive rebounding or just his sheer size at the rim, his defensive presence and impact is felt.”
The Terrapins didn’t leave themselves a whole lot of options other than to turn up the defense. Again, they struggled from the field, particularly from distance, hitting just 4-of-22 from behind the arc. They also uncharacteristically had trouble at the free throw line. Despite 29 attempts, Maryland clanked 10, including 2-of-8 from Cowan, who still played stellar defense, and collected 11 points, five rebounds and two assists.
“It’s rare, but it’s what we do,” said Turgeon of another close win. “If you look back, we win close games and what’s rare about it is that there are three freshmen out there. See how many (teams) are playing three freshmen 30 minutes and are 8-1.”
In addition to Cowan, Jackson had eight points, five rebounds and was 4-of-6 at the free throw line, including some big ones down the stretch. Kevin Huerter was just 1-of-6 from the field and had five points, but he also had four rebounds and two steals and another great floor game, including a highlight reel pass to Dodd for a dunk.
“We definitely felt (we could rally),” said Dodd. “We just had to keep getting stops and we did. Coach said ballscreen defense was big so we locked in. And when the ball went up on the board, we knew it was going to be a war.”
Maryland lost that war 44-39, but won enough battles elsewhere to prevail. Cowan got a steal on the first possession of the second half and cashed in for a lay-up at the other end. Another turnover produced a Huerter drive and Maryland was within 43-39 at 18:42, after trailing by eight at the half.
Evans hit a 15-footer and the Cowboys rode off on a 12-5 spree to lead 55-44 at 14:30, when Jeffrey Carroll hit a three. Carroll had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. The Terps would trail by that 12, before they mounted another rally.
Jackson snuck inside for a tip-in at 11:05 to make it 60-50. Dodd got a dunk off a Brantley drive and dish at the shot clock, and when Brantley scored on a tough baseline drive, it was 60-54 with 9:35 left, all this without Trimble on the floor.
The Terrapin defense, finally adjusted to the Cowboys’ rootin’, tootin’ pace, started consistently getting stops. Oklahoma State went without a field for six minutes and 28 seconds, missing nine of 11 shots over one 11-minute span.
The Maryland run would reach 13-0, Jackson hitting one of two free throws, and then Dodd making one of his best moves of the night to score a three-point play at 6:51, and make it 60-58. Huerter hit two free throws and then Jackson, one of two, to complete the comeback and put Maryland ahead (61-60 at 6:28) for the first time since the game’s opening minute.
“Hopefully, personally I don’t want any more games like that,” laughed Dodd, of the continuous comebacks. “We just keep fighting.”
The fight continues Wednesday, another 9 p.m., tip, this time with Howard. The homestand continues Saturday against St. Peters, and Monday versus Jacksonville State. It’s a welcome slowing of proceedings after that recent five-games-in-10-days ordeal.
Oklahoma State led 43-35 at the half, forcing Maryland into a tempo at which the Terrapins had difficulty playing. The Cowboys came in averaging 98.7 points per game, the second highest total in the country. Maryland slowly rebounded from a horrid shooting start to knock down 41.4 percent (12-of-29) in the first half, but 13 turnovers discombobulated the offense.
The Terrapins finished at 40.7 percent shooting (24-of-59) and with 18 turnovers, but just five in the second half.
The Terrapins trailed 30-19 at 7:16 of the first stanza when Evans scored off a Dion Wiley turnover, but Maryland answered with the next nine points. Cowan scored on a drive then Wiley hit a three on a Trimble dish from behind the basked flying out of bounds. Trimble drove in for a score and then got a hockey assist, hitting Huerter, who, in the air, fired a one-hand, no-look pass to Dodd for a dunk that brought the crowd alive. That bucket made it 30-28 at 5:07.
With Ivan Bender out with a bruised left knee, and fouls to Dodd and Cekovsky mounting in the first half, Wiley played some power forward to help the cause. L.G. Gill, who had seven points and three rebounds in 16 minutes, also gave the Terrapins a lift, particularly keeping the ball alive on the offensive glass.
The Cowboys closed with a kick, running off nine straight points to lead 43-33, before Cowan got two free throws at 28.9 seconds to snap a three-minute Maryland scoring drought. Oklahoma State shot 45 percent (18-of-40) and had a 27-18 rebounding edge in the first 20 minutes.
Oklahoma State had jumped out to a 6-1 lead, playing faster than any team Maryland had seen this year. The Terrapins missed five of their first six shots and trailed 11-5, when Brandon Averette hit a 3-pointer at 15:35.
The bench gave Maryland a lift, Gill nailing a baseline three and then another three from Brantley off a Wiley assist that tied the game 13-13 at 12:15. The Cowboys went on a 10-2 run to lead 23-15 at 9:06 when Averette scored in transition.
Brantley thought containing Evans was privotal. “He’s a great player, one of the best point guards in the country. Obviously, he averages like 25 points a game. Just containing him was the key to the game.”