Maryland’s bench erupts after Jake Layman (10) sinks a three pointer late in the second half. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Maryland outlasts Georgetown on memorable night in College Park

Maryland’s players had vowed to treat this game just like any other, to ignore the crucible they walked into at Xfinity Center on Tuesday night. It was the first time Maryland had played Georgetown in College Park since the Nixon administration, they were told, but the Terrapins seemed uninterested in creating a new chapter in a rivalry that had been dead before any of them were born. They just wanted to play basketball.

But the plan to carry a shield against Georgetown quickly unraveled by the second half, when Maryland found itself feeding off a sold-out crowd to survive. With just more than a minute remaining and the game tied at 68, senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon hit the go-ahead three-pointer to finally slay the upset-minded Hoyas, who had led for most of the second half against the third-ranked Terrapins. Maryland’s 75-71 win provided both the first humbling and exhilarating moment of the young season. The Terrapins trailed by nine in the second half but showed the kind of resilience they will need to live up to the tsunami of expectations this season will bring.

Melo Trimble (2) is congratulated by his Maryland teammates after hitting a three-point basket during the second half. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Maryland guard Melo Trimble finished with 24 points and Jake Layman overcame a sluggish start to score 15 for the Terrapins (2-0), who also received 10 points and seven assists from Sulaimon.

Georgetown posted five players in double figures, including 16 points from 7-foot center Bradley Hayes, who helped the Hoyas hold a 36-28 rebound advantage.

It was clear that Tuesday night’s game, the first to be played between these two schools on Washington-area soil since 1993, was far from normal. Tickets on the secondary market were going for nearly $150. Students began lining up outside Xfinity Center five hours before the game. Legends from the program’s past — Len Elmore, Walt Williams, Gary Williams, Joe Smith — all attended and provided an air of nostalgia. Members from the last four teams that beat Georgetown were honored on the court, receiving an ovation before returning to their seats.

They watched as these Terrapins, now among the most hyped in program history, struggled to join the club. Maryland wobbled early, missing its first three shots and spotting the Hoyas a 9-0 lead. It may have been worse had it not been for Sulaimon, who hit a pull-up jumper for the team’s first points. Maybe more importantly, he ran back on defense and pumped his hands as if they were placed on car brakes, signaling to his team to slow down.

Perhaps not since games against Duke had Maryland seen Xfinity Center roar like this, when Sulaimon used to come to town as a Blue Devil and receive the brunt of the Maryland crowd’s punishment. Now he was being cheered by them while leading their beloved team. He was responsible for 21 points in the first half with seven points and six assists, including a pull-up three-pointer with less than a minute left in the half that tied the score at 33.

“He’s been around the block and back,” Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon said of Sulaimon.

But while Robert Carter Jr. hit all four of his shots from the floor in the first 20 minutes, Maryland struggled to achieve the offensive balance so many are expecting this season. Layman went scoreless in the first half. Trimble was held scoreless for nearly 16 minutes before adding a late flurry of seven points. Blue-chip freshman Diamond Stone found himself sitting on the bench early in the second half with three fouls and just one rebound.

“The two transfers [Sulaimon and Carter] give them . . . a hardness,” Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said.

Georgetown, meanwhile, looked more desperate. The Hoyas used a spate of runs to stay in position to win, including a 7-0 run to take a 44-37 lead with just more than 15 minutes remaining. Trimble responded with a steal and layup to make it 44-40 two possessions later.

Maryland struggled to contain Hayes, who elbowed his way through Maryland’s front court for much of the night. After Layman awoke from his offensive slumber and scored back-to-back buckets to pull Maryland within two, Hayes responded with another lay-in to push Georgetown’s lead back to 50-46 with 10 minutes 52 seconds left.

Georgetown simply wouldn’t go away. Isaac Copeland made consecutive baskets — including a 17-foot jumper that made it 61-54 with 5:41 remaining in the game. That sent Maryland’s second sellout crowd of the season into a resounding silence, which turned into a loud groan after Carter missed a dunk coming out of the ensuing timeout.

“We kind of took over the huddle and looked each other in the eye and said we have enough confidence in each other to win. We just had to get stops and make the right plays,” Carter said.

Maryland responded with a flurry. After Hayes missed the front end of a one-and-one, Trimble tied the score at 61 with a three-pointer. That set up a wild finish. Hayes and Jared Nickens answered each other with a pair of layups.

The game was tied at 68 when Sulaimon reappeared and provided Maryland with the watershed moment of the night. He was never intimidated by the stage, so with just more than a minute remaining, he unleashed a deep three-pointer from the left perimeter to make it 71-68. Hayes finally missed on the next possession, and Trimble came up with a key offensive rebound with 12 seconds left. Only then could the Xfinity Center crowd exhale and cheer a hard-fought win, and maybe the rekindling of a rivalry, too.

“We were playing for more than us tonight. We were playing for all those people,” Turgeon said. “What a big relief.”