The Maryland men's basketball team took a season rubber match from Indiana Friday night, winning 75-69 and advancing to a Big Ten Tournament semifinal.
Maryland won a late chess match of foul shots between the two teams, with free throws from seniors Dez Wells and Evan Smotrycz sealing a second-straight narrow triumph over Tom Crean's Hoosiers.
Guards Wells and Melo Trimble, as ever, led the No. 2-seeded Terrapins' offense past a middling conference counterpart. Wells scored 22 points and Trimble scored 17 to help Maryland past the Hoosiers in a game dominated by offense.
A balanced series of secondary performances helped Wells and Trimble push Maryland over the top. Jared Nickens hit two three-pointers and had 10 points, while Jake Layman had 10 of his own and stood out defensively. The Terps shot 45 percent from the field, while the Hoosiers finished at a highly unusual 35 percent. Maryland made 25 of 33 free throw attempts.
With their win, the Terps (27-5) will face the winner of the late evening's Michigan State-Ohio State contest.
The offensive dynamism that characterized the teams' first two meetings reigned again in this game's first half. The Hoosiers started the game by making their first five shots from the field, but the Terps countered with some hot hands of their own. Damonte Dodd scored Maryland's first five points after drawing an IU foul just four seconds after the opening tip, before Wells and Trimble took over the lion's share of Maryland's offense for the rest of the half. Maryland's two best players each entered the half with 11 points apiece – Wells showing off with two fiery dunks (and a near-miss on an alley-oop try from Trimble) and Trimble drawing three separate trips to the foul line. Two Trimble free throws with four seconds left in the half sent Maryland to the locker room with a 42-40 edge.
At the start of the second half, it looked – briefly – as if Maryland might put some separation between itself and Indiana. The Terps jumped to a six-point lead in the first five minutes and threatened to widen it, but two Indiana possessions kept things tight: shot-clock-usurping, offensive rebound-heavy slugfests that ended in consecutive scores by Yogi Ferrell and Emmitt Holt, drawing Indiana nearly even with 12 minutes left. The Hoosiers beat back another Maryland attempt to pull away with inside six minutes left, and Maryland led by two points with three minutes still on the clock.
Maryland pushed its late lead to four with two free throws from Evan Smotrycz. An Indiana lane violation handed Wells another try after the front end of his one-and-one attempt with just over a minute left fell short, and Wells subsequently made two more, putting Maryland up by six with a minute left. Two Ferrell free throws brought Indiana back to a four-point deficit shortly thereafter, and then Layman missed the top of his own one-and-one try. Robert Johnson added two more for Indiana at the line, making it a one-score game with 39 seconds to play. Smotrycz responded with two more makes after an intentional foul, and Wells rebounded a Johnson missed three-pointer at the 30-second mark.
After Wells hit one free throw and then rebounded a miss on Indiana's next possession, his two free throws stretched the Maryland lead back to three possessions and effectively, finally, ended things.
1. Points were scored. Lots of them, in fact. Maryland and Indiana have lit up the scoreboard every time they've met this year, a trend that kept up in spades on Friday. The two teams scored 41 points in the first 10 minutes of clock time and never looked back, marching into halftime with a robust 42-40 scoreline. All told, the game featured 144 points even after a second-half slowdown, with both teams easily clearing a point-per-possession-average. College basketball can offer some pretty muddy offensive performances, but this wasn't one of them.
2. Maryland struggled to defend Indiana's quickness. For a third time this year, Indiana's brigade of quick and athletic scorers – the likes of Ferrell, Troy Williams, Johnson and James Blackmon Jr. – gave Maryland problems. The Hoosiers are a top-end shooting team, and they've got more than enough athleticism to compensate offensively for having not a single post scorer or rim-protector of consequence. The Terps had their way on offense, but some of Indiana's little guys (Holt) and medium-sized slashers (Williams) did heavy damage as rebounders and scorers alike.
3. Maryland's tight-game fortunes haven't run out yet. That the Terps are undefeated in virtually any sort of close game only gets more unbelievable by the day, but here they are. They entered at 10-0 in games won by fewer than seven points, and they pushed that mark to 11-0 Friday. Despite Maryland's assurances that something more substantive is behind this joyride, it still feels edgy – even though Maryland's free-throw excellence clearly helped again on Friday. For now, it's no matter, and Maryland's Big Ten ride isn't over yet.