Terps basketball coach Mark Turgeon along with several key players on Maryland's 68-66 win over Big Ten rival Indiana. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
The lead was six points for Maryland with a little over five minutes remaining Wednesday night and the No. 19 Terps seemed on the verge of finally pulling away from Indiana at Xfinity Center.
The announced crowd of 15,304, exhausted by the runs the Hoosiers made and the shots junior guard Yogi Ferrell knocked down, seemed finally on the verge of celebrating.
Five minutes seemed like five hours, yet in the end exhaustion for both the Terps and their fans turned into elation when Ferrell missed two shots in the final six seconds to help Maryland preserve a much-needed 68-66 victory.
The win for Maryland (20-5, 8-4) not only erased the memories of three straight road blowout losses – including a 19-point loss in Bloomington last month and an even-more crushing 16-point demolition at Iowa on Sunday – but kept the Terps in a tie for second place in the Big Ten with Ohio State.
The loss dropped Indiana (17-8, 7-5) all the way to seventh.
Asked what was going through his mind when Ferrell missed a wide-open 3-pointer from the top of the key and then a short follow after senior guard Dez Wells inadvertently knocked a rebound out of the hands of teammate Richaud Pack, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said he thought like any other Terps fan.
"The first one went up and I said, 'They're trying to win it,'" Turgeon said. "It was probably the most open look he got, to be honest with you. He played a lot of minutes, there was a lot on his plate, I was hoping he'd miss it. I'm like any other fan in the building, saying, 'Miss, I hope it goes off to his side.' Time ran out. I don't care how you do it. We had to get a stop and we got one."
Said Indiana coach Tom Crean: "I thought it was in, I thought the last one (an off-balanced 12-footer that rolled around the rim) was in. We were going to get the best shot and certainly you want to shoot it early enough so you have a chance for the offensive rebound, which we did … He got a look and we crashed the glass. It just didn't go."
Wells, who along with freshman point guard Melo Trimble led the the Terps with 18 points, had a different, more metaphysical, explanation when he saw Ferrell miss only his third 3-point shot in nine attempts in a scintillating 23-point performance.
"I guess the basketball gods were on our side tonight," said Wells, who needed some help after his missed free throw with 12 seconds to go kept the Hoosiers down just two.
The win was the seventh straight at home in the Big Ten for Maryland, which will go on the road Saturday to play at Penn State.
Just as they did in Bloomington, Ind., when they shot a shade over 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from the line and still suffered what was then the most one-sided defeat of the season, the Terps shot well, finishing 24-for-49 from the field and 10 of 21 on 3-point attempts.
The difference was on defense. After watching the Hoosiers shoot 60 percent from the field and 15-for-22 on 3-point attempts at Assembly Hall, Maryland tightened its grip on everybody but Ferrell (8 of 16) and sophomore forward Troy Williams (7 of 13), who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The other Hoosiers were a combined 10-for-38 from the field, including 2-for-14 for freshman guard James Blackmon Jr., who scored just five points after scoring 22 against the Terps in Bloomington. Junior forward Collin Hartman, who started the shooting exhibition last month en route to 15 points, scored five Wednesday night.
"First of all, it was a great college basketball game, and a great win for our team," Turgeon said. "Give Indiana a lot of credit. They were terrific and Yogi was obviously good. I thought down the stretch we really executed, whether it was Jake [Layman], Melo, Dez … They made some plays for us and our defense is getting better. Our rebounding is getting better."
Thinking back to Sunday's blowout loss at Iowa – a game in which the Terps trailed 17-2 early in the first half and 40-17 at halftime – Turgeon said, "On Sunday it looked like the world's coming to an end. We get hammered. Plane troubles coming back. It took forever to get home. But the kids are resilient, much more than their coach."
The Terps came out sharper than they have since beating Michigan State by 16 at home last month, yet couldn't shake the Hoosiers. Maryland led by five points at three different junctures in the first half, then needed a reverse layup by Trimble with 36 seconds left in the half to go into halftime with the lead.
After falling behind early in the second half – on a jumper by Ferrell, to make it 40-39, an 8-2 run gave Maryland another five-point lead. It too wouldn't last, as a dunk and subsequent three-point play by Blackmon put the Hoosiers ahead, 48-47, with 9:28 to go. The Terps would regain the lead on a 3-point shot by Trimble and eventually build it to six, 57-51, on a drive by Wells with 5:14 to go.
The Terps have won their past three home games by a total of nine points, following a one-point win over Northwestern and a six-point win over Penn State. Maryland is 7-0 in games decided by six points or fewer.
"It just says that we have a great group of guys who can band together well down the stretch when we need them to," Wells said.
Layman, who finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, including a pair of big free throws to put the Terps ahead 66-63 with 18 seconds left, knows how vital Wednesday's win might be.
"I was saying before the game that a win like this can turn a season around for a team," Layman said. "I think right now we're feeling good about ourselves. We have a tough one against Penn State. We've just got to keep pushing and getting better."