Maryland basketball came back from behind late again to knock off Kansas State, 69-68 to win the Barclays Center Classic Saturday night. It was a prettier win than the four that preceded it, but was gut-wrenching nonetheless. The Terps are 7-0.
Melo Trimble was the hero again, finishing a layup through a foul with less than five seconds to go for the win. To make things even more stressful, he missed the free throw to give the Wildcats a chance to win it. Driving down as the clock ticked, Kansas State couldn’t convert a contested jumper and Maryland ran away with yet another close win.
Trimble was less than excellent for most of the game, which has been a rarity for him this season. He shot 6-of-11 from the field for 18 points — most of which came late— but had trouble getting to the free throw line and holding onto the ball. He turned it over five times, but the Terps responded as a unit with one stellar performance.
This was the Michal Cekovsky game fans had been waiting for. The junior broke out for a 16-point explosion, showing some inside game and playing receiver on alley-oops. His point total was a career-high.
Maryland had a much sharper first half than it did a night prior. The team still converted on just three of 10 shots from deep, but went 9-of-17 otherwise with a number of finishes inside. Ivan Bender, Michal Cekovsky and Damonte Dodd, who returned for the first time in two games since suffering from a concussion, provided an inside presence the Terps usually lack. Jaylen Brantley and Anthony Cowan were able to feed the big men, who combined for 12 of Maryland’s 35 first-half points.
Kevin Huerter was also sharp in the early going. He led the Terps with 10 points in the half on 2-of-4 shooting from deep. His quick release and precision under pressure were vital to Maryland’s early lead. A game after pulling down 10 rebounds, he had five in the half.
The Terps took a 35-29 lead into the half.
Cekovsky was the story of the second half as the crowd in Brooklyn chanted his name following a flurry of slams. He was active all night, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds. His length was a problem as protected the rim and it’s clear he’s made a big leap since he was buried in Maryland’s rotation behind Diamond Stone and Dodd a year ago.
But Kansas State fought back, taking the lead with less than five minutes to go in the game, making a number of contested shots. They held a slight lead for much of the final few minutes.
D.J. Johnson was a real problem for Maryland in the paint. He finished with 26 points and eight rebounds and was the single biggest difference-maker in this one.
But as the Terps have done time and time again, they pulled a win out in the final seconds.
Maryland basketball has a tough challenge at home on Tuesday with the Pittsburgh Panthers heading to College Park.
Three things to know
- Michael Cekovsky looked really good. Again. With 16 points, eight rebounds, a number of good screens and solid defense, Ceko was Maryland’s best big. It’s only a matter of time before he starts over Bender — who has also been solid.
- Mark Turgeon is starting to trim his rotation. Dion Wiley and L.G. Gill played limited minutes and Jared Nickens didn’t touch the floor in the second half. It’s been a disappointing start to the season for all three and they’ll need to establish roles for themselves to find their way back on the court.
- Maryland beat a pretty good Kansas State team and remains undefeated. Not many wins have felt good for the Terps, but this one has to. It was close because of course it was, but this was a solid win against a solid team. They look more ready for this Tuesday’s test against Pittsburgh after this showing.