MINNEAPOLIS — The most somber news conference of the season began like it always has on Thursday, with Mark Turgeon giving Minnesota credit for stunning his team, 68-63, and winning its first Big Ten game of the season. Only then could he begin to contemplate the puzzling issues with his own team. Where was the poise down the stretch? What is wrong with Melo Trimble? After a second straight loss, can Maryland re-discover itself in the final three weeks of the season?
“This isn’t a lot of fun. I just want us playing better,” Turgeon said, almost in a desperate tone. “I’m just going to try and get us playing better. Hopefully it starts Sunday.”
That’s when Maryland will host Michigan at Xfinity Center, and Turgeon has no more time to waste with a quick turnaround. The Terrapins will fly home Friday morning and hope for a renewal with just three weeks remaining until the Big Ten tournament. Maryland had a chance to take over first place in the Big Ten standings with a win Thursday night, a clean slate after last Saturday’s 70-57 loss to Wisconsin. But it was plagued by a litany of similar issues. Here are three takeaways from the loss.
Another slow start: After digging itself too deep of a hole in last week’s loss to Wisconsin, Maryland didn’t learn its lesson. It struggled to close out on Minnesota’s shooters, who hit 7-of-13 from three-point range to grab control of the game. Turgeon knew his lineup would have to chase the Gophers around the perimeter – he even used a four guard lineup that included Rasheed Sulaimon at power forward for a stretch in the first half – but the Gophers hit timely shots in building a 40-29 lead at halftime. It was the most points Minnesota had scored in the first half since late November. Even though Maryland shored up its defense (Minnesota shot just 20 percent from the field in the second half) and rode Sulaimon’s 28 points to a near rally, the first 20 minutes set the tone on a night that wasn’t meant to be for the Terrapins. “We definitely didn’t take them lightly, but we just didn’t play well in the first half,” said senior forward Jake Layman, who finished with 11 points. “I think our defense in the first half has to get a lot better.”
Melo Trimble’s slump continues: Trimble entered the night just 3-for-26 in his previous two league games, and it didn’t get any better at Williams Arena. He hit his first attempt in the opening minutes, a three-pointer from the left perimeter, and he held out his arms in relief. But Trimble (10 points) finished just 3-of-11 from the field and made a series of critical turnovers down the stretch, including an errant pass to Layman with Maryland trailing by one and less than a minute remaining. Turgeon noted on Wednesday that Trimble is still working to get back to full strength – he’s been dealing with back and hamstring pain for much of the past six weeks – but the fifth-year coach also shouldered some responsibility in jump-starting his sophomore point guard for the stretch run. “It’s my job, it’s what I get paid to do. I’ve got to get Melo going again. Hopefully I can do it by Sunday at one o’clock [against Michigan],” Turgeon said.
Diamond Stone was missed: The freshman center was suspended for Thursday night’s game due to a flagrant foul committed against Wisconsin’s Vitto Brown last Saturday. While junior center Damonte Dodd was stellar at times while protecting the rim – he finished with six blocks and nine rebounds – Maryland missed Stone’s scoring production in particular. Maryland finished with 24 points in the paint but received just 14 combined points from front court players Robert Carter Jr., Michal Cekovsky and Dodd. Carter was just 3-of-12 from the field and finished with eight points. “[Diamond] can score it. He can score around the basket. He can get offensive rebounds and score too, because he’s so big. So yeah, it probably hurt us. We weren’t making a lot of shots,” Turgeon said. “We tried to play through Robert the best we could, and Robert just couldn’t get it going tonight.”