Led by five guys in double figures Minnesota defeated Maryland 89-75 in College Park, Maryland leading to their current 21-7 record overall and 9-6 mark leading to fourth place in the Big Ten. Terrapin coach Mark Turgeon was overly impressed with the way Minnesota is playing.
"I'm going to brag on Minnesota,” Turgeon said. “They weren't good, they weren't great, they were incredible. They were terrific. You have to give them a lot of credit.
“We couldn't guard Nate Mason (who had 17 points with three assists). Their guards were great, whoever they put in. Jordan Murphy (15 points and eight rebounds) was terrific. A majority of the credit has got to go to them. They were great.
“We're 22-6, 10-5 in the league. We've had a heck of a year, we just didn't have a great night. Minnesota had a great night."
In addition to what Mason and Murphy did, Dupree McBrayer made 6 of 8 looks for his game high 18 points, Akeem Springs had 16 points in 18 minutes of play (foul trouble), and Amir Coffey totaled 13 including a perfect 5 of 5 from the foul line.
Everybody contributed. Reggie Lynch had two scores and three blocks despite foul trouble, Bakary Konate grabbed four boards and had a dunk, Eric Curry worked hard off the bench, and Michael Hurt made a nice defensive play in his two minutes on the floor.
“Great win obviously for us more than anything because we have so much respect for Coach Turgeon and that team,” Coach Richard Pitino said. “Playing in this building is very challenging so for our guys to go get some wins versus some really good teams on the road is a testament to our guys mental toughness.
“I am extremely proud of them and I keep saying it. I get more and more proud every game. They are so selfless, they have no ego, and they just want to win. That is our greatest strength more than anything. We were terrific offensively in the second half. I am excited about it. We will celebrate tonight and then move on.”
At the end of the second half Maryland was killing Minnesota with ball screens. Konate had issues recovering to his man off the screen but it was more than that. The Terrapins created space that led to Ivan Bender scoring 15 points in place of injury Michal Cekovsky.
At the break Coach Pitino made an adjustment to switch up how they defended the ball screens. Sometimes they showed hard, sometimes they went under, and other times they switched off the screens. Those adjustments weren’t extremely well.
“We were just making plays offensively and changed up how we were guarding their ball screens because they were just torching us in the first half,” Pitino said. “I thought that was somewhat effective. We started to get some rebounds when we needed to. We seemed to control the game in the second half and to win on the road you have to do that.”
Maryland had the edge on the glass 42-36 but the gap closed in the second half. Also, Minnesota had only six turnovers for the game and overall, they are an extremely confident group.
“Great confidence, great belief,” Pitino said. “We just had to break through. During that five game losing streak, the first one was Michigan State and then we had four really close games and needed to find a way to break through. We did that and now we are starting to believe. Internally they are starting to believe. I don’t need to tell them to believe. They are doing it themselves.”
Minnesota is now in a historic spot as far as recent basketball history goes. They have reached 20 wins quicker than any team since the Final Four. They are in fourth place at this point for the first time in twelve years. This will be the team’s first chance to have a winning record in league play in ten years.
“I can’t explain it,” Nate Mason said. “Just coming from my first two years, where we’ve been at, coming here and being able to get wins and having win streaks is funny because we never would’ve thought in the last two years that we would be in the position that we’re in. We just kept fighting and it paid off.”
The celebration in the locker room (video below) was something to remember.
“Excitement,” Nate said. “A lot of joy, a lot of happiness. Happy we came down here in a tough environment and pulled out a victory.”