“He was tired. Missed a couple front end of one-and-ones. If we would’ve made some kind of a run on them, I would’ve went back with him,” Turgeon said. “But we have four games in ten days. Wisconsin was in total control of the game, so that’s why I did it.”
Turgeon also pulled freshman Kevin Huerter for the final 4:28 and played fellow rookie Justin Jackson all of 40 seconds over the final 3:35. But while he made the decision to pull Trimble with the long game in mind, choosing to preserve as much energy in his star guard’s legs for the final stretch of the regular season, Turgeon’s somber tone also underscored what was lost Sunday.
This was a chance for Maryland (22-5, 10-4) to make a statement in front of a national television audience. With a win, the Terrapins would have joined Purdue atop the Big Ten standings, and while Maryland remains just a game back, it will be forced to quickly pick up the pieces before a talented Minnesota squad visits College Park on Wednesday night. Sunday was ultimately a missed opportunity for Maryland, which jumped out to a 33-27 lead in the first half with suffocating defense and mesmerizing offense from Trimble. He finished 9 for 17 from the field, including 4 for 7 from three-point range.
But even that wasn’t enough, and Wisconsin’s onslaught early in the second half, which included a 19-5 run, allowed the Badgers to completely take control of the contest. Maryland struggled to guard sophomore center Ethan Happ (20 points) and wasn’t able to match up with a motivated Nigel Hayes. The Badgers’ senior forward, who had struggled in consecutive losses entering Sunday’s game, finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, frustrating Turgeon on the sideline each time he found a way to beat a double team. That included a crucial moment with under 13 minutes remaining, when Maryland doubled Hayes in the post. Hayes flicked a no-look pass that led to a dunk by Happ to push the lead to eight. Hayes and Happ also combined for six of Wisconsin’s 18 offensive rebounds. Maryland had just five offensive boards.
“They were good. They were terrific. We couldn’t guard them. We couldn’t double them; we couldn’t guard them head up. They were great,” Turgeon said.
Maryland’s 60 points was a low for the team in Big Ten play this year and the second lowest for the season. In 50 conference games since joining the league, Maryland has been held to 60 or fewer points just six times, three of which have come against the Badgers. Wisconsin (22-5, 11-4) is also the only Big Ten team to have held Maryland to 60 or fewer points each of the past two seasons.
Trimble, who was coming off a career-high 32 points in a win Wednesday over Northwestern, looked as if he might surpass that number Sunday. He kept his team in it with a determined approach on the offensive end, including a stretch in which he scored seven straight in the second half to whittle the lead to 56-52 with 7:21 remaining. It looked at that point as if Maryland could possibly weather everything that went wrong Sunday — the rebounding struggles (Wisconsin held a 44-27 edge), turnovers (Maryland committed 13), the foul trouble in the frontcourt (both Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky had four late in the second half) and even the technical foul committed by Turgeon with 9:31 left — but Turgeon said Trimble was gassed down the stretch and needed rest.
Trimble didn’t disagree with Turgeon’s decision to pull the plug with just under five minutes left, at least not in his postgame comments to reporters. The game was “pushed out” to the point that it wouldn’t have mattered, he said. Trimble rather focused inward. He was disappointed in himself that he didn’t hit more free throws on a day when he went 5 for 10 at the line. And he wished his team could have come up with more second-half stops, the kind that had defined their late-game success for much of the season. By the end of his session, before boarding a bus to head back to the airport and fly home to College Park, he decided to look onward after his team missed a major opportunity Sunday.
“We all want to win the league. It’s not over. But we know that we have four or five more games left, and the [Big Ten] tournament, and hopefully the next tournament,” Trimble said. “So we’re not going to hang our heads. We’re just going to get better and get ready for Minnesota.”