Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, along with several players, talked following the No. 3 Terps' 75-71 victory over the Georgetown Hoyas at the Xfinity Center. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
COLLEGE PARK — It took more than 40 years for the Georgetown men's basketball team to find its way back to the Maryland campus, and 22 years for the Hoyas to finally return the game they played – and lost as a No. 15 ranked team – to the unranked Terps at USAir Arena in Landover.
After what transpired Tuesday night, next year's rematch at the Verizon Center couldn't happen soon enough.
Not only did unranked Georgetown return the game that began the 1993-94 season, the Hoyas nearly flipped the script against the No. 3 Terps. Trailing for much of the second half, Maryland came from seven points down in the last six minutes to win, 75-71, before a sellout crowd at Xfinity Center in a matchup that was part of the inaugural Gavitt Tipoff Games.
"That's why it's called a rivalry game, I guess," Terps coach Mark Turgeon said. "It was tremendous. Georgetown was great, but we were lucky. I'll take it."
After a tentative start, sophomore guard Melo Trimble took control and finished with a game-high 24 points. After a horrendous start during which he went scoreless in the first half, senior forward Jake Layman added 15. Senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon kept the Terps in the game early, and finished with 10 points and seven assists. Junior forward Robert Carter Jr. added 12 points and eight rebounds.
"We just didn't want to lose the game. At the end of the day, it just came down to competing," said Sulaimon, who quickly made the home crowd forget that he spent the past three years playing for Duke. "We were down with six minutes. We kept telling each other there's a lot of time in the game. We just knew we were going to make the right play."
Asked how the Terps were able to overcome the slow start in general, in particular by two players, he and Layman, who were named earlier in the day to the Wooden Award watch list, Trimble said: "It shows toughness. Not that our team really relies on one scorer, but there are a lot of guys who can also score – Rasheed, Diamond [Stone], it goes down the line. Just because two players are not scoring, it doesn't mean our offense isn't going to click."
Maryland (2-0) trailed 9-0 at the start and 61-54 with 5:48 to go, was badly outrebounded in the second half (21-13) and missed nine of 32 free throws, including Trimble going an uncharacteristic 13-for-18 from the foul line. All five starters for Georgetown (0-2) finished in double figures, and only foul trouble to two key Hoyas, senior guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and senior center Bradley Hayes – as well as a discrepancy at the free-throw line – allowed the Terps to escape.
"A lot of things weren't going our way throughout the night," Turgeon said. "But in the end we did what we had to do, we got enough stops and we were terrific on the offensive end. We started playing down, getting to the rim. Rasheed, Melo, Robert Carter gave us a big lift in the post."
Georgetown coach John Thompson III was clearly perturbed by his team's second straight loss to start the season. Unlike their loss last Saturday to Radford, the Hoyas defended well until the last five minutes and dominated inside for large stretches of the second half, particularly on the offensive boards. In the end, Maryland made enough plays and got enough calls to win.
"They hit some big 3s, we put the ball down and went to the basket, I thought we got bumped a little bit," Thompson said. "They didn't call it. They went to the line 32 times; we went to the line 12."
Maryland was forced to go to a smaller lineup against Georgetown's zone, with Layman moving to power forward and Carter to center, and bringing in Jared Nickens on the wing. Turgeon said his team "was kind of ad-libbing down the stretch a little bit, trying to have fun with it. We could never get control of it until the very end. We were rushed."
It took nearly the entire 40 minutes for Maryland to slow down and start having fun.
It remains to be seen whether the two-year deal between Maryland and Georgetown leads to a more permanent resumption of the long-ago rivalry between the region's two biggest college basketball powers, but the excitement surrounding Tuesday night's early-season showdown at Xfinity Center should push both schools in that direction.
A 7-0 run inspired by Trimble's ability to knock down 3-point shots and get to the free-throw line helped tie the game at 61. Though Georgetown briefly took the lead on a shot in the lane by 7-foot senior Bradley Hayes, the Terps hung in until finally taking the lead for good on 3-point shot by Sulaimon with 1:18 to go. Trimble then hit the last four free throws to secure the win.
Sulaimon's play was key for the Terps all night. After Trimble and Layman both started poorly, it was the Duke transfer who hit Maryland's first shot and got the Terps back in the game with a 12-2 run to take their first lead. Down the stretch, the 6-4 shooting guard was key at both ends. He finished with 10 points and seven of his team's 13 assists.
"He's been around the block and back. We knew he was going to be fine in these big games," Turgeon said. "He's older, he's a senior. That's what I liked about our team. I think our teams always thought we were going to win. It wasn't looking really good at the 4½-minute mark, but Rasheed was terrific. I thought he was great defensively. He's such a good playmaker for us and he hit the big 3 from 20 feet in the air. I was happy for him."
Sulaimon was critical in moving the ball against a zone that Georgetown had not shown in its shocking season-opening double-overtime loss against Radford. Even though the Terps had not practiced against it in preparation of Tuesday's game, Sulaimon said "we were a little out of sorts at the beginning, but once we settled down, I feel we have the talent to play against [that] kind of defense. Once we started trusting our offense, everything kind of opened up for us."
The victory will certainly keep Maryland high in the rankings and prevented the Terps from being one of five top-10 team to lose in the past two days.
With a huge crowd that included former All-American Joe Smith and former star point guard Greivis Vasquez, who showed up with about five minutes left after playing with the Milwaukee Bucks against the Washington Wizards, Turgeon conceded feeling the pressure not to lose at home to Georgetown.
"I told our guys at the end of the game, 'Man, we needed this, this was great,' " Turgeon said. "This is exactly what we needed. We figured out how to win the game. I think it lets them know that we're not invincible. We've got a long ways to go. I keep saying, we're finding ourselves, we're nowhere near where we need to be."