The message from Maryland coach Mark Turgeon at halftime was clear: get the ball inside and get Purdue in foul trouble, particularly 7-foot senior center A.J. Hammons.
With everyone but junior forward Robert Carter Jr. ice cold from the outside, the No. 4 Terps listened to Turgeon, went to the basket, the free-throw line and, eventually, back to their locker room, smiling.
During a 25-10 run to close the game, Maryland pulled away to a 72-61 victory over the No. 18 Boilermakers before a sellout crowd Saturday at Xfinity Center.
"We did what we had to do — our post defense was terrific, our ball pressure was terrific, our rebounding just keeps getting better and our execution at the end was at another high level," Turgeon said.
Senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon finished with a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds for Maryland (21-3, 10-2 Big Ten). It was his first career double-double. Carter, whose career-high-tying four 3-pointers were the only ones the Terps made all game, scored 19 points.
"Especially at the end, we locked in, we fed off the crowd's energy," Sulaimon said. "I think the difference in the game is that we got every 50-50 ball and when you get every 50-50 ball, you give yourself a chance to win."
Sulaimon said that the team's approach changed in the second half. After building an early 18-10 lead, the Terps found themselves trailing, 30-27, at halftime, largely the result of a 14-2 run by the Boilermakers that included a 5½ minute stretch when Maryland didn't score.
"Coming out in the second half, we just wanted to get easy buckets," Sulaimon said. "We thought we could do that by getting defensive stops and running out in transition and being aggressive, attacking off the dribble and getting closer to the rim."
On Maryland's first two possessions of the second half, sophomore guard Melo Trimble and senior forward Jake Layman each drove to the basket, drawing two-shot fouls. It set the tone for a second half that saw the Terps take 23 free throws, making 22.
"What we did is we really executed, we spread the floor and we just shot layups and free throws at the end," Turgeon said. "It's a pretty good recipe for success. … We tried to attack the bigs the best we can. We got comfortable at the line the start of the second half."
With Maryland trailing, 46-43, and a little over nine minutes to go, Turgeon called a timeout prior to the under-eight-minute television stoppage and told his team to keep it simple offensively and keep grinding defensively.
"I wasn't great today. I was overcoaching at times," Turgeon said. "I told them, 'These are the two things we're going to do. They're having a hard time guarding. Don't let me screw this up.' And we did it. Our guys figured out they weren't making jump shots."
Trimble, who finished with 14 points and seven assists despite shooting 2-for-12 overall and 0-for-5 from 3-point range, was the catalyst, getting the ball to freshman center Diamond Stone (12 points) for a pair of dunks, getting to the basket for a couple of drives and finding Carter for a big 3-pointer with 5:40 to play.
Carter's 3-pointer started a 16-2 run that put the game away for the Terps.
Conversely, the Boilermakers stopped going inside to Hammons, whose last basket came with 3:46 to play to cut Maryland's lead to three. Purdue finished the game shooting 40.6 percent from the field (28-for-69) and 12 percent on 3-pointers (3-for-25).
It was the second victory over a top 25 team in the past two weeks for the Terps, who have yet to lose at home all season and have won 26 straight at Xfinity Center. It tied the fewest points Purdue (19-5, 7-4) scored this season.
"I've been doing this a long time, and I've had really, really good defensive teams, but right now we're playing at a level I don't know if I've seen as a head coach," Turgeon said.
"Everybody's buying in [defensively], and I have a smart basketball team. You can walk through a play once or twice, and they know how to guard it and they can guard to counter to it, too. It's a lot of fun when you're sitting over there and you know you're going to get stops."
Said Sulaimon, "That's one of the things: we try to make defense our identity. We keep saying it to each other. We have all the physical tools to be a great defensive team. It's just about locking in, dialing in and effort. Day by day, every practice we're in, we show we can be a dominant defensive team."
It was also the third victory — the first two on the road — in a stretch of seven days for the Terps, who go out of conference for the first time since December to play Division II Bowie State on Tuesday.
"We're a tired basketball team," said Turgeon, who will now get to celebrate his 51st birthday a day late. "There's no way we could have won this game without our fans. Our fans were terrific."
Purdue coach Matt Painter said the Terps had a lot to do with getting their crowd back into the game.
"I thought they did a great job of getting the ball to the basket, whether it was post-ups or drives, and that is what you have to be able to do," Painter said. "They really clamped down defensively and we had a couple of ill-advised possessions. You have to give them credit because they're a really good defensive team and they showed that at the end of the game."