Feature photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.
All season, the No. 6 Terps have found a way to win close games. In many of those nail-biters, something happens — a big shot, a foul call that goes the Terps’ way, the other team misses free throws or turns the ball over. None of those things happened Thursday night against the Golden Gophers.
Minnesota, entering the game a dismal 6-19 and winless in the Big Ten, shocked the basketball world by upsetting the Terrapins (22-5, 10-4), 68-63.
Even with Diamond Stone suspended, many thought this game would be an afterthought for Maryland. Even for a Minnesota team that lost four games against ranked opponents by a combined 20 points, people expected Maryland to effortlessly put this one away.
Maryland had the same problems it has struggled with recently: failing to make shots at the free-throw line and coughing the ball up. They recorded 15 turnovers on the night.
The difference maker for Minnesota was its ability to score off turnovers and get to the free-throw line. The Golden Gophers shot 20-23 from the foul line, while the Terps were 14-19. Minnesota also outscored the Terrapins off of turnovers by five points, the same deficit Maryland lost by.
The game began with each team trading blows through the first 10 minutes. Then, Minnesota caught fire, making three consecutive shots. Dupree McBrayer converted the Gophers’ fourth basket in a row, a layup, with 9:54 left in the first half to put Minnesota up 24-20. Minnesota went on a 10-4 run over the next 5:20 to gain a 34-24 lead.
Maryland entered the locker room down 11 points, a deficit it’s not completely unfamiliar with. Against Penn State on Dec. 30, the Terps were losing 31-23 at the half. On Nov. 20, Rider held a 12-point lead over the Terrapins with 15 minutes left. Stone played in both wins, a luxury the Terps did not have Thursday night.
The Terps started chipping away at Minnesota’s lead once the second half began. It was a slow, laborious process that saw seven Maryland turnovers. During the half, the Terps shot an impressive 44.4 percent from behind the arc while holding Minnesota to 20 percent shooting from the field and 10 percent shooting from downtown.
Stifling defense coupled with a potent offense brought the Terps back into the game. They finally reclaimed the lead with 3:08 left, as Robert Carter Jr. passed to Rasheed Sulaimon for a 3-pointer. Sulaimon nailed the shot, giving the Terps a 60-59 lead. This was the Terrapins’ first lead since Carter Jr. made a jumper with 16:46 left in the first half.
Sulaimon displayed a heroic effort against the Golden Gophers, scoring a career-high 28 points on 8-of-18 shooting from the field and 4-of-8 shooting from behind the arc. Stone’s replacement, forward Damonte Dodd, also had a solid night, recording nine rebounds and a career-high six blocks.
This appeared to be another one of those classic Maryland comeback wins that Terrapin fans have become accustomed to this season. But, with a one-point Minnesota lead, Melo Trimble, who shot 3-for-11 from the field, turned the ball over with 27 seconds left. Minnesota was then fouled and converted both free throws, effectively sealing the Terrapins’ fate.
Minnesota made all six of its free throws in the last 30 seconds of play, capping off their upset of the No. 6 Maryland Terrapins. Predictably, the Minnesota faithful stormed the court after the final buzzer sounded.
As Dodd told the media before the game: “It’s basketball. Anybody can beat anybody at any given time.”
Although cliché, the Minnesota Golden Gophers showed everybody just how true that statement can be.
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