Maryland opened their first ever Big Ten Conference slate with a road game at Michigan State Tuesday, upsetting the Spartans with a back-and-forth double 68-66 overtime victory. Dez Wells returned to the starting lineup for Maryland in place of Jared Nickens. The senior started along with Melo Trimble, Richaud Pack, Jake Layman and Damonte Dodd, and hit a step back jumper to tie the game at 2-2 for the Terps' first ever Big Ten basket.
It was a slow offensive start for both teams, who began a combined 8-of-37 from the floor. The offenses picked up a bit at the end of the half, and Maryland led 17-14 at the break. Jon Graham was the team's leading scorer at the half, with four points.
The Spartans took their first lead of the game early in the second half off a Travis Trice steal and layup. Dez Wells responded with an emphatic dunk, making the score 21-20 Maryland. Michigan State took the lead back, and the Terrapin offense fell back into a funk. Melo Trimble started to take over for the first time all game, drawing multiple fouls and keeping them in it.
Maryland ended up taking the lead back from the line, when Richaud Pack made a pair of free throws to make it 32-31 with under nine minutes to play. Down 41-37 with about three minutes to play, Evan Smotrycz nailed a three to bring the Terps within one. Damonte Dodd later picked up a huge block on a Branden Dawson turnaround attempt, and made the two on the other end to take the lead. A steal and score by Travis Trice gave the Spartans the lead again, but Trimble forced another free throw opportunity to tie it up. Trailing 47-45 with the ball and 18 seconds left, Trimble put up a puzzling deep three-point attempt early in the shot clock, giving the ball away and forcing Maryland to foul.
With just seconds left on the clock, Dez Wells dribbled up the court, stepped back and nailed a deep three to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Trimble hit a three pointer early in the extra period to take a 51-50 lead, and a Michigan State basket plus some (more) questionable officiating ended up turning the game 54-51 in the Spartans' favor. The officiating was so bad, in fact, that both coaches were livid at different points in the game, and Mark Turgeon picked up a technical in just about the worst situation possible due to what appeared to be a number of consecutive missed calls. Maryland ended up tying it up again anyway on a pair of Wells free throws, and Michigan State missed their buzzer-beater attempt, sending it to a second overtime.
The Terrapins defense, which had played well during basically the entire game, picked up a number of steals in the second overtime to start to take control of the game. Wells had two of those, slamming a dunk down to make the lead an emphatic 60-57. Trimble hit his free throws down the stretch, and it was enough to hold on for the win.
Full stats, via ESPN.
Three things we learned
1. Even in recovery, Dez Wells will be Dez Wells ... for better or worse. The senior got off to a slow start in his first start back from injury, but still showed glimpses of his old stuff with a nice early jumper and a dunk. He turned the ball over six times and was playing pretty sloppy ball early in the second half. Then, that last shot of regulation happened, giving Maryland another to take down the Spartans.
Positive Wells made his presence known late in overtime -- he made a nice pass inside to Jon Graham and drew a late foul to tie it up, and his demeanor with the ball changed completely. Maryland's senior is back, and if fans had any questions as to how the offense would adjust to his return, Tuesday was certainly a mixed bag with a positive end. If late second half/overtime Dez is a sign of things to come, Terrapin fans can probably feel more encouraged about the offensive performance.
2. Maryland can play a horrible 30 minutes on offense and still win. Credit goes out to the Terrapin defense. Michigan State started the game 3 of 21 and didn't get much better, finishing with a 32.3% mark from the floor and 22.7% rate from three. Coming into the game, the Spartans had shot 49.3% from the floor and 42.0% from deep -- both ranking within the top 20 nationally. Even while Maryland's offense struggled, the defense was able to keep this game close, playing a huge role in the upset.
The Terrapins made a lot of little mistakes against Michigan State on the offensive end, from silly fouls on both ends to turnovers and poor shot selection. There hasn't been much of it this season, so maybe we're spoiled, but it stood out as their worst offensive performance since last year -- and it was still enough for a win against a good team in a tough road environment. That "freshman lapse" game finally came (the group of four combined to shoot three of 21 from the floor, although Trimble hit 12 of 14 free throws), and the Terps still managed to come away with the victory.
3. On to Minnesota. The Big Ten is tough. Sure, the league may have had its out-of-conference embarrassments this season, but there's a group of eight teams in the Top 50 that can give anyone problems on any night. Maryland opened conference play with games against three of those teams in a row, and the upcoming home matchup with the Gophers could really cement the Terps' status as a legitimate conference contender. Starting 2-0 with that slate is a big deal, and Maryland has set themselves up to do just that.