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'We needed this real bad:' Maryland basketball back in win column

“We needed this real bad,” said junior guard Melo Trimble, who had 11 points and seven assists to lead a balanced effort that saw all 10 players score. (Don Markus/Baltimore Sun video)

The start of the second half of games had been the biggest problem for the Maryland men’s basketball team during its first three-game losing streak in five years.

In the first two losses, at Wisconsin and at home to Minnesota, the Terps watched a first-half lead evaporate quickly. In its most recent defeat, at home to Iowa on Saturday, Maryland simply disappeared.

Faced with the possibility of losing their top four seed and a double-bye into the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament, the old Terps reappeared Tuesday against Rutgers at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.

It figured that Maryland’s 79-59 victory — spurred by a 17-4 run at the start of the second half — came on the road, where the Terps finished 7-2 in league play.

“We needed this real bad,” said junior guard Melo Trimble, who had 11 points and seven assists to lead a balanced effort that saw all 10 players score. “Our motto for the past two days is ‘Next-play mentality and have fun.’ We found ourselves having fun today, and we haven’t been doing that for the last three games.” 

There was some irony in the ending for Maryland (23-7, 11-5). Booed at home toward the end of a 14-point loss to the Hawkeyes on Saturday, the Terps were loudly cheered Tuesday by a large contingent of Terps fans that made the trip to New Jersey. 

“We haven’t been good our last two home games, but the teams we played were terrific,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “We’ve won a lot of home games, we’ve been good at home. We’ve been great on the road, 8-2 on the road [including a win at Georgetown in November] when you start three freshmen is an amazing feat.”

It also helped that the Scarlet Knights, whose 2-14 Big Ten record going into the game included several near-misses and close losses, wilted under Maryland’s defensive pressure to start the second half, led by senior center Damonte Dodd.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — After being limited to just six minutes in the first half while picking up two fouls — both on moving screens, which have plagued him for much of his career — the 6-foot-11 center scored all nine of his points and grabbed six of his seven rebounds in the second half.

“I thought Damonte’s energy really got us going on the defensive end and rebounding, ” Turgeon said. “He ran the floor hard. …I thought Damonte changed the game in the second half with his activity level at the start of the second half.”

Trimble's off-balance put-back off his own miss as he got bumped to the ground to close the first half gave the Terps a 32-28 lead and seemed to give his teammates a lift going into the locker room. Trimble led a second-half passfest when the Terps had 12 assists on their 18 baskets.

“He only had 11 points, but I thought he was dominating out there,” Turgeon said. 

Asked about Trimble’s put-back at the end of the half, Turgeon said, “That was big, because I thought we should have been up more than four at halftime, and we weren’t. That was disappointing. We just talked about being mentally tougher, and just keep fighting. I thought we did that all night.” 

Said Trimble: “I don’t know how I made that shot. Everyone was excited and we went into halftime with a lot of momentum. We came out in the second half and that just gave us a boost.” 

All 10 Maryland players Turgeon used scored, including 10 points apice for redshirt sophomore Ivan Bender and graduate transfer L.G. Gill, and nine by freshman guard Anthony Cowan. Freshman wing Kevin Huerter scored all eight of his points in the second half, and freshman forward Justin Jackson had all seven points and five of his team-high eight rebounds in the half.

Junior guard Mike Williams led Rutgers (13-17, 2-16) with 14 points. The Terps held sophomore guard Corey Sanders to just six points, less than half of his average.

Considering the balance Maryland showed offensively it was one of the better performance for the Terps, albeit against the conference’s worst team.

It was the most one-sided win for Maryland in the Big Ten since the Terps beat Illinois in the opener, 84-59. There is still work to be done to get a bye to the tournament quarterfinals. The Terps don’t have the tiebreaker against Minnesota, which also won Tuesday, and might need to beat Michigan State at home Sunday to secure the bye. Both teams are currently 10-6 in the league.

"I think when you make shots and things are going well as a team, everyone can take a deep breath," Turgeon said. "The thing is, we didn't let up. We didn't let up until a minute, 30 to go in the second half. Our guys stayed dialed into the gameplan and kept trying to execute.

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"They ran when they felt like they should run, and we set it up when we felt we should set it up. They looked like a very experienced team. We looked that way at Northwestern and we took a couple of games off and we looked that way again tonight. Hopefully that will carry forward and that's the way we're going to play the rest of the year."

NOTES: Redshirt sophomore guard Dion Wiley, who missed last season with a knee injury and much of the Big Ten schedule this season because of back problems, hit his first shot since Dec. 27 when he made a second-half 3-pointer.

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