CHICAGO — The Maryland men’s basketball team finally played like road warriors.
For one game at least.
For the first time in 33 days, the Terps won a game away from the friendly confines of Xfinity Center in College Park, almost leading wire-to-wire in a 70-54 victory over Minnesota in a Big Ten Tournament second-round game Thursday night before an announced 16,104 at United Center.
Senior small forward Donta Scott paved the way with 20 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. Graduate student shooting guard Don Carey chipped in 11 points on 3 of 7 shooting from 3-point range, three assists, two rebounds and two steals, and sophomore power forward Julian Reese, a Baltimore resident and St. Frances graduate, added 10 points, eight rebounds and two steals.
“My teammates really found me early on,” said Scott, who left briefly in the second half with a left knee injury but said afterward he was fine. “They all had faith in my shot just like coach [Kevin Willard] had faith in my shot. They were telling me to keep shooting. I felt like I got hot early on, and they just found a way to find me.”
Carey and Reese helped offset a surprisingly quiet showing from graduate student point guard Jahmir Young. The second-team All-Big Ten selection who led the team in scoring at 16.3 points per game and ranked ninth in the conference did not get his first point until he converted one of two free throws with 1:14 left in the first half, missed his first seven shots before dropping in a layup with 11:45 remaining in the second, and even missed a dunk attempt about two minutes later.
Still, Young finished with 15 points — on 9 of 11 shooting from the free-throw line — six rebounds and three assists.
“I would just say they were sending different reads, whether that’s touches or switches,” he said. “But I’ve kind of been seeing it all year. Just trying to make plays as best as I can and find my teammates. It was a rough night for me, but the win is all that matters.”
Maryland, the No. 6 seed in the tournament, improved to 21-11 and earned the right to meet No. 3 seed Indiana (21-10) in Friday’s quarterfinal scheduled for about 9 p.m. The No. 14 seed Golden Gophers finished their season at 9-22 and dropped 14 of their last 16 games.
The outcome was a welcome development for the Terps, whose 16-1 record at home included a program-record 13 straight victories against Big Ten competition but who went a combined 4-10 on the road and at neutral sites. Their most recent win on the road was Feb. 4 when they dusted Minnesota, 81-46, at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
Willard pointed out that Maryland’s last two opponents on the road — Ohio State and Penn State — are still alive in the Big Ten Tournament.
“We came out with a great mindset,” he said. “Had a good practice yesterday, a good walk-through. When you’re in this as long as I’ve been in it, I’ve always looked at the big picture, and I look at Penn State and Ohio State playing really good, and those are our last two losses. So I thought we were playing good basketball. So I wasn’t really that worried about anything.”
Maryland completed the rare three-game sweep of the Golden Gophers, which included an 88-70 victory at home Feb. 22.
The Terps’ woes on the road can be attributed to an offense that is much quieter than the version that takes the court at Xfinity Center. They entered Thursday night’s game averaging 64.9 points in 14 road and neutral games compared with 74.6 points in 17 home games, shooting 41.3% away from College Park compared with 48.9% in it, and averaging 12.1 turnovers in the road and neutral games compared with 9.5 assists at home.
On a day when the lower-seeded teams such as No. 13 seed Ohio State, No. 10 seed Penn State and No. 9 seed Rutgers upset superior opponents in No. 5 seed Iowa, No. 7 seed Illinois and No. 8 seed Michigan, respectively, Maryland held serve against a Minnesota squad that had surprised No. 11 seed Nebraska, 78-75, in Wednesday’s first-round game.
After sophomore small forward Dawson Garcia gave the Golden Gophers a 2-0 lead — their only advantage of the game — the Terps scored eight straight points in a 1:46 span, including five in a row from Scott. Although Minnesota turned the tables and scored eight of its own in a 2:06 stretch, Maryland responded with a 9-2 burst that again was fueled by five points from Scott and assumed a 17-12 lead with 10:17 left in the first half.
After the Golden Gophers scored the next three points, the Terps embarked on a 9-2 spurt for a nine-point advantage at 26-17 with 4:52 remaining. But after Carey’s jumper gave Maryland a 28-19 lead with 4:04 left, the offense did not make another field goal in the half, missing five consecutive shots.
Fortunately for the Terps, Minnesota was similarly ineffective, going the last 2:47 without a field goal, and Maryland was able to carry a 31-24 advantage into halftime. With Reese and graduate student power forward Patrick Emilien plagued by foul trouble with two and three fouls, respectively, in the first half, the Terps turned to 6-foot-11 freshman center Caelum Swanton-Rodgers, who picked up three fouls in three minutes.
In the second half, the Golden Gophers pulled within eight points at 45-37 with 11:57 left after freshman power forward Pharrel Payne sank a layup, drew a foul and converted the ensuing free throw. But Maryland continued to find enough replies to inflate the cushion back to double digits.
The Terps finished with nine steals, which led to Minnesota committing 15 turnovers. Maryland scored 19 points off those miscues, while the Golden Gophers scored only nine points off the Terps’ nine turnovers.
Payne came off the bench to lead Minnesota with 17 points, nine rebounds and three assists, and freshman shooting guard Braeden Carrington contributed 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting from 3-point range. But Golden Gophers coach Ben Johnson acknowledged that the team might have run out of steam after Wednesday’s stirring win against Nebraska.
“I just felt like today, we didn’t quite have the juice that we needed,” he said. “We cut into the lead a couple times, but didn’t have enough to capitalize and really get it to a one- or two-possession game. That was kind of the tale of it. We’ve got to do a better job of protecting the ball, but that had something to do with Maryland. I thought they did a good job and had energy and juice and fight.”
Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals
No. 6 seed Maryland vs. No. 3 seed Indiana
Friday, approx. 9 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network