The Maryland men's basketball team beat South Dakota State, 79-74, in an NCAA Tournament first-round game in Spokane, Wash., on Friday. The Terps jumped out to a double-digit lead by halftime, but they collapsed late in the game and nearly let the Jackrabbits upset them. They didn't, however, and as a result, the Terrapins will face the South Region's No. 13 seed, Hawaii, on the same floor on Sunday, with a trip to the Sweet 16 at stake.
For Maryland, Melo Trimble delivered one of his better games in months, although fouls limited him and he faded late. Trimble scored 19 points on 5-of-10 shooting and made 9-of-9 free throws, driving the Terps' offense with an efficiency he hasn't shown in recent games. Jake Layman had a team-high 27 points in the most consequential performance of his career, going 8-of-8 at the line.
Maryland needed a wide spread of contributors, as Trimble, Diamond Stone and Robert Carter Jr. each sat for much of the second half with foul trouble. Jared Nickens stepped from the bench to hit four three-pointers and score 14 points. Nickens was often open, the result of an unusually crisp inside-and-out Maryland offense.
The Terps were sluggish on offense throughout the first half, but their defense staked them to an early advantage they wouldn't relinquish. Old problems reared their heads quickly, as the Terps gave up six offensive rebounds and nine turnovers in the first half alone. But the Terps put a blanket over the Jackrabbits' shooters, and South Dakota State only mustered 22 points in the first 20 minutes of play – or, seven more points than Trimble did.
Trimble, Stone and Carter each picked up a third foul in the first few minutes of the second half, so the Terps had to dig deep into their bench to make a 12-point halftime lead stand up. Nickens and Layman helped with that, hitting five three-pointers on five attempts in about a two-minute window that sandwiched the second half's first media timeout.
But Maryland wasn't nearly in the clear. The Jackrabbits decided to stop missing shots after trailing by 17 points with 11 minutes left, and a furious run over the next 10 minutes brought them back to within a possession in the game's final moments. The Jackrabbits had the ball in the last 10 seconds, down just three points after Jaylen Brantley missed a free throw with a fouled-out Trimble sitting on the bench. But Brantley and Rasheed Sulaimon forced a steal, and Maryland was finally home after a horrible finish.
Three things to know
1. Melo was Melo, until he wasn't. Maryland's fortunes in this tournament are tied closely to Trimble's. The Terps need him to be good, and on Friday, he was. Trimble was bouncing through screens, finishing at the basket and drawing fouls in the same fashion that made him a trendy All-America pick before this season. If this is the version of Trimble Maryland will get going forward, the sky is this team's limit.
But Trimble also took two very dumb late fouls to get himself knocked out of the game, and Maryland desperately needs him to be smarter than that.
2. The shot defense was strong, until it wasn't. South Dakota State shot 41 percent from the field. That's not great, but this was a tale of two defensive halves for Maryland. The Jackrabbits clicked at a putrid 27 percent in the first half, then 60 percent in the second.
3. Maryland utterly collapsed late. The Terps closed this game by allowing a massive run to a Summit League team it had already put on the ropes, and the Terps did so by fouling often and taking poor shots. There's no excuse, and the Terps are lucky to have survived.