COLLEGE PARK — The Maryland men’s basketball team overcame two seven-point deficits in the second half and junior guard Eric Ayala made two free throws with 3.3 seconds left to give the Terps a 61-60 win over No. 24 Purdue at Xfinity Center on Tuesday night.
It’s Maryland’s first home win in Big Ten Conference play and the team’s fourth over a ranked opponent this season. Ayala scored 16 points, while junior guard Aaron Wiggins led the team with 18. Senior guard Darryl Morsell added 11.
“I told our staff that [Tuesday], I said, ‘Guys, we have to get this one if we’re going to do anything,’” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said.
“Today was really important. It would have really made it difficult for us to be a part of a postseason if we didn’t win today. And now we’ve got four Top-25 wins.”
It was maybe a bit of poetic justice that the area of the game that plagued Maryland (10-8, 4-7 Big Ten) so much in the first half wound up being the difference in the comeback victory. The Terps were outrebounded 17-9 in the first, including 6-0 on the offensive boards. But down 60-59, Ayala secured an offensive board, one of three in the game for Maryland, after missing a shot close to the rim and was fouled on his ensuing attempt, setting him up for the game-winning free throws.
“I didn’t feel like the ball bounced our way,” Turgeon said. “There were a couple times they just threw the ball off the backboard and bounced right to them, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, is the ball going to bounce our way?’ And it did that last play.”
Boilermakers forward Trevion Williams (game-high 23 points, 11 rebounds) was called for a double dribble with 0.4 seconds remaining after grabbing the inbounds pass at midcourt, a fitting end to a game that was marred by 16 turnovers in the first half and 25 in the entire game. Purdue (12-7, 7-5) committed 15 turnovers, tied for its most in conference play this season.
The Terps were down by three at halftime, 27-24, and faced a seven-point deficit early in the second half but erased it and led by as many as two before going down by seven again with 3:45 remaining in the game.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Ayala and Wiggins tied the game at 36 with 12:53 remaining and another Wiggins 3 gave the Terps a 39-38 lead with under 12 minutes to go. Wiggins hit yet another 3 to tie the game at 42 with under 12 minutes remaining. The Terps made five of seven 3-point attempts over a seven-minute span as they went back-and-forth with the Boilermakers.
After shooting 1-for-12 from beyond the arc in the first half, Maryland made eight of 13 in the second.
“We knew shots were going to fall in the second half,” said Wiggins, who recorded a season-high 11 rebounds. “There was no way that we’d go 1-for-12 in the second half again. Things got to even out. Once we got going, there was nothing that you could do to stop us.”
After sophomore forward Donta Scott (seven points) hit another 3-pointer to give Maryland a 48-47 lead with under six minutes remaining, Purdue went on a 5-0 run to take a 52-48 lead with five minutes remaining.
A Morsell 3-pointer cut the deficit to two, 60-58, with 1:33 remaining and Ayala had the opportunity to tie the game at 60 but made just one of two free throws.
After a stop on defense — Purdue went the last 2:24 with no field goals and just two points — and with 16.6 seconds left, Ayala got the ball in his hand for one final moment. He was matched up on Williams after a switch and took up much of the remaining time surveying his options on the bigger, but slower, defender before driving to the basket. His shot came up short, but despite being surrounded by several Purdue defenders, he grabbed his own rebound.
After the foul, he didn’t miss his chance at redemption, sinking both free throws.
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