The No. 14 Maryland men's basketball team finished off an undefeated home slate in conference play on Saturday, beating Michigan, 66-56, before a sellout crowd of 17,950 at Xfinity Center.
On a day when the program honored seven senior players and five student managers, the Terrapins closed a tight first half on a 12-0 run that pushed them toward victory. They ended the season with a shining 18-1 mark on their home court and without a single local defeat in Big Ten play.
Melo Trimble led the Terps (24-5, 12-4 Big Ten) with 19 points, headlining a balanced day for Maryland on offense. Dez Wells scored 13 in his final home game for the program, while fellow seniors Richaud Pack and Jon Graham scored 6 apiece. Jared Nickens and Trimble each connected on three three-point shots, while Maryland was 50 percent from deep as a team. The Wolverines (14-14, 7-9) only shot 24 percent on threes and 37 percent overall.
Both teams' offenses were stuck in neutral for the first 10 minutes of the game, but the scoring picked up as the first half wore on. After Maryland jumped to a five-point lead in the first few possessions, the Terps' offense stagnated and only scored 11 points in the next eight minutes. Michigan dug itself out of a small early hole and moved ahead by three points, 21-18, with five minutes before halftime. But a 12-0 Maryland run from that point – keyed by three-pointers from Trimble and Pack and a put-back score by Wells – sent the Terrapins into the break with a 30-21 lead.
That was more separation than either team had managed to gain at any point, but it didn't last for long. Even on its run to an undefeated home mark and conference play, Maryland had scarcely blown out anybody. To that effect, the Wolverines started the second 20 minutes on a 5-0 run, but Maryland kept the Wolverines from getting closer than four points back at the start of the half. Nickens hit a pair of three-pointers to help Maryland hold its edge with some degree of comfort.
Michigan pulled its deficit within two possessions at the final under-eight media timeout, but a Trimble three-pointer and a crafty mid-range jumper from Wells put the Terps back up by seven with more than five minutes to play. From there, the Terps kept control. Trimble hit a set of three foul shots, and a previously cold Jake Layman immediately followed with his second made three-pointer – on eight attempts – to give Maryland more distance.
With 34 seconds left, senior walk-ons Jacob Susskind and Spencer Barks checked in for Maryland, along with Varun Ram and Jon Graham. As the clock wound to zeroes, Wells walked off for the final time, the crowd chanted, "Let's go seniors" and the Terrapins were 24-5.
Three things we learned
1. Maryland's attack was more balanced than ever. Whether out of skill or just necessity, Trimble, Wells and Layman have shouldered the brunt of Maryland's offensive load this season. The three average 44.5 of Maryland's 70 points per game this season, and no one else is close to double figures individually. On Saturday, that wasn't the story. Trimble had his ordinary strong scoring day, but Maryland's output was otherwise spread nicely. Six players scored at least 6 points, and Maryland won despite never fully erupting on offense.
2. Evan Smotrycz has become an ace defender. With the possible exception of football quarterback C.J. Brown, no Maryland student-athlete has dealt with more unwarranted fan scorn in recent times than Smotrycz. Last season, his first at Maryland, Smotrycz was sometimes a defensive liability and mostly inefficient offensively. He hasn't scored a ton this year, but Smotrycz has quietly evolved into one of Maryland's most important interior defenders. He ably worked against Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky last Tuesday, and he was a beacon of light in a depleted Terps front-court on Saturday. With Michal Cekovsky out with a knee injury and Damonte Dodd in his usual foul trouble all afternoon, Smotrycz needed to play big on defense. That's just what he did. None of Michigan's big men made even a remote offensive impact, and Smotrycz spent time dealing with all of them.
3. The Terps closed out a stunning home season. Maryland's win sent the Terps to an 18-1 final record at the newly renamed Xfinity Center, including a 9-0 mark in their first Big Ten schedule. Their only loss came on Dec. 3 to an elite Virginia team that hasn't lost on the road even one time. Maryland's only true blowout win in league play came in January against Michigan State, and it's fair to say that the home crowd pushed the Terps over the top in a couple of games decided by fewer than three possessions. The environment was raucous Saturday. Maryland wasn't at its best, just like it hasn't been in plenty of home games. As usual, the Terps cobbled together what they needed.