Drive for five: Maryland seeks fifth straight Thanksgiving tournament title in Florida

There must be something about Thanksgiving that brings out the best in the Maryland basketball team.

Going into the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Fla., Friday, the Terps have won four straight tournaments before or right after Thanksgiving.


Maryland will face St. Bonaventure in the opening game, and either TCU or New Mexico on Saturday.

Here’s a look back at the highlights from the past four years:


2013: Coming off a disappointing 90-83 defeat to Oregon State at Comcast Center — a game that featured President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle sitting courtside rooting for the Beavers, coached at the time by First Brother-in-Law Craig Robinson — the Terps headed to the U.S. Virgin Islands to play in the Paradise Jam.

After a pair of double-digit wins over Marist (68-43) and Northern Iowa (80-66), Maryland built a 12-point lead at halftime over Providence in the championship game and stretched it to 19 on a 3-point shot by Varun Ram with 12 ½ minutes left. The Friars closed twice to within two before Dez Wells, who was named tournament MVP, helped put the game away.

Unfortunately the momentum didn’t last. Despite beating Boston College and Georgia Tech in the first two ACC games and ending their final regular season in the ACC with home wins over Virginia Tech and Virginia, the Terps finished 9-9 overall and lost to Florida State on a last-second shot in the opening round of the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C. Maryland was invited to the NIT, where the Terps reached the semifinals before losing to Iowa to complete a 17-15 season.

2014: After a quiet start to his career, freshman point guard Melo Trimble gave a glimpse of what his first season in College Park was going to be like in the opening round of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City. Trimble scored 31 points — his highest point total until he equaled it early in his junior year and then broke later on in the season— with the help of 13-for-14 free throw shooting to beat Arizona State 78-73 in the opening game.

Early in the championship game against No. 13 Iowa State, Dez Wells was fouled hard by Cyclones’ star Georges Niang. Wells kept playing despite what was later diagnosed as a broken wrist, contributing to a 5-for-20 shooting performance. With Trimble having a quiet night (11 points), fellow freshman Jared Nickens gave the Terps a big lift off the bench, scoring 15 points and helping Maryland build a 15-point lead before a pro-Iowa State crowd. The Terps held on for a 72-63 victory, with Trimble being named MVP.

The title in Kansas City was part of a 7-0 start that eventually grew to 14-1, including a double-overtime win at Michigan State in Maryland’s first Big Ten game. The win in East Lansing also marked the return of Wells, who eventually shed the soft cast he wore to protect the wrist and along with Trimble led the Terps to a surprising 14-4 record and second place behind Wisconsin. Both Wells and Trimble were named first-team all-Big Ten and Maryland finished 28-7, reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time under Turgeon. As a No. 4 seed, the Terps lost to No. 5 seed West Virginia in Columbus, Ohio, in the Round of 32.

2015: Despite coming into the season ranked No. 3 in the country, Maryland needed second-half comebacks to beat Georgetown and Rider in its 3-0 start. The trend continued against Illinois State at the Cancun Challenge in Mexico, when the Terps fell behind 57-52 before graduate transfer Rasheed Sulaimon helped Maryland rally to a 77-66 victory.

In the championship game against Rhode Island, a long jumper by Trimble gave the Terps a 16-point halftime lead and it grew to 24 late in the second half en route to an 86-63 victory. Rams coach Danny Hurley took exception to Turgeon calling a timeout to insert walk-on freshman guard Andrew Terrell, who proceeded to hit a long 3-pointer. Hurley cursed out Turgeon and later disparaged several players on the post-game handshake line, causing Turgeon to be restrained from going after the Rhode Island coach.


After a 22-3 start that saw Maryland stay in on the cusp of its first No. 1 ranking in school history, the Terps lost four of their last six regular season games before losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament semifinals for the second straight year. Turgeon’s team righted itself in the NCAA tournament by beating a pair of double-digit seeds, South Dakota State and Hawaii, before finishing a 27-9 season by losing to top-seed Kansas in Louisville, Ky., in Maryland’s first Sweet 16 appearance since 2003.

2016: Coming to Brooklyn, N.Y., for the Barclays Classic and trying to integrate three freshmen in the starting lineup, Maryland fell behind Richmond by as many as 14 points three times in the first half and by 12 at halftime before forging a second-half comeback and forcing overtime. The Terps scored eight of the first nine points in the extra period and held on for an 86-82 win as Trimble tied his career-high.

With Kansas State seemingly on the verge of ending Maryland’s streak of holiday tournament titles, Trimble did what he did so often during his career as a Terp. He hit a number of big shots late in regulation and in overtime, including what proved to be game-winner on a twisting drive with 6.6 seconds left. Trimble was named MVP for a third straight holiday tournament.

Despite losing at home to Pittsburgh in its next game, Maryland’s 20-2 overall start was the best in school history. With Trimble’s shot off and on the remainder of the season, as well as the freshmen getting fatigued and the bench thinned dramatically by the loss of junior center Michal Cekovsly with a broken ankle in mid-February, the Terps lost seven of their last 11, including back-to-back defeats to Northwestern and Xavier in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.