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Maryland men’s basketball swarms past No. 17 Minnesota, 63-49

The Terps raced out to an early lead and never relinquished control on the road against the Golden Gophers.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

With around six minutes left against No. 17 Minnesota, Donta Scott found fellow forward Jairus Hamilton wide open on the right side beyond the arc and threw the ball his way.

Without hesitation, Hamilton easily drained the triple, extending Maryland men’s basketball’s lead to 14, the smell of upset that had wafted in the air throughout the contest continuing to grow stronger and stronger with the minutes winding down.

Minnesota’s Liam Robbins made a triple on the next possession, but that was all the Terrapins would allow, as their staunchy defense held the Golden Gophers without another field goal for the remainder of the afternoon en route to a resounding 63-49 victory.

Maryland managed to stun yet another ranked opponent, with the victory over Minnesota marking the team’s third upset over an AP Top 25 team on the road this season — the first time any team in program history has done so.

“We all dogs, man. A team full of dogs and we built for this,” Darryl Morsell said after the win. “We love coming in to other arenas and just leaving our mark. So that’s big. We got we got a lot more to accomplish as a team and a lot we can definitely get better at.”

The Terps’ defense carried them to the historic win, seemingly never skipping a beat. Minnesota made a mere 14 of its 46 field goal attempts in the contest, shooting 30.4% from the floor and 21.7% (5-for-23) from deep. Saturday marked the first time in three years that the Golden Gophers were held under 50 points at home.

Going into the contest, Minnesota head coach Rick Pitino told media that he didn’t know what Maryland team he expected to show up at The Barn. The Terps have had an up and down season and entered Saturday’s contest with just two wins in conference play.

But from the opening seconds of the matchup, it was clear that Maryland had a different type of energy, one very similar to that it boasted in upsets against Wisconsin and Illinois.

“In situations where we know we need a win, it’s a little different sense of urgency with the guys and everything,” said Eric Ayala.

The Terps got off to a 5-0 start thanks to a hounding defense that forced the Golden Gophers to miss their first four shots from the floor, along with a triple from Scott and a layup from Eric Ayala. Three minutes in, Robbins got the home team going with a layup to make it a 5-2 game, but Minnesota’s offense was halted from there, unable to score another bucket for over three minutes.

Meanwhile, Maryland was firing on all cylinders.

With a little over 13 minutes left, Galin Smith turned on his defender and sunk a smooth hook shot off a pass from Aaron Wiggins. Ayala nailed a triple shortly after that to continue the shocking start for the Terps, off to a 17-3 lead.

Last time out against No. 7 Michigan, it was the Terps on the other side of a 17-3 deficit early. But the Terps were determined not to get steamrolled against another top opponent Saturday.

Out of the under-12 timeout, however, a Maryland offense that came out crisp and clean began to lose its edge. The Terps turned the ball over five times in under five minutes, allowing Minnesota to find its rhythm and make it a seven-point game with under eight minutes left until the break.

In a matter of seconds that passed at lightning speed, Marcus Carr easily dribbled into the paint past Scott and cut to his left to avoid Hamilton. Wiggins came over for help defense, but it was no avail as Carr used went in for the layup to cap off a 9-0 Minnesota run over the span of 2:58.

Turgeon immediately called a timeout and his team quickly responded, eager to not let up its strong start, something that has been a rarity for Maryland in the Big Ten this season.

The Terps responded immediately out of the timeout, with Wiggins catching his defender ball-watching with a backdoor cut that led to an easy two-handed slam. Ayala soon began to get into the paint himself, scoring at the rim on consecutive possessions including one in which he froze Minnesota forward Brandon Johnson and coasted to the goal for an easy dunk, putting Maryland back up, 26-17.

The Terps defense then forced a shot clock violation on the next play, further solidifying its lead, which it held out of Minnesota’s reach for the rest of the period.

“We try to pride ourselves on defense,” Morsell said. “We understand that with this team this year it’s going to be a lot different, so we focusing on getting stops and winning low-scoring, close games.”

Hakim Hart was fouled while throwing up a three-point shot in the final seconds of the half and was able to give Maryland a significant boost going into the break by making all three tries at the line. The Terps didn’t trail once in the opening period, exiting the first half with a 36-27 lead.

Early into the second, Robbins committed three fouls in two minutes, forcing him onto the bench with four fouls. Having the the seven-footer out should have been a big boost for the Terps, but instead both teams went cold.

Maryland only made one field goal in nearly six minutes of gameplay following Robbins’ departure, but its defense continued to hold things down. Still, the the gap was shortening with the Terps up just 41-35 with a little under 13 minutes left.

Eric Ayala dribbled in from the top right of the arc, looking to pull off a jump shot before being stopped by Minnesota’s Jamal Mashburn Jr. in between the paint and line. Mashburn nearly knocked the ball away, but Ayala managed to pass the ball off to Darryl Morsell outside the three-point line. The senior guard stormed inside and sunk a tough shot over another Golden Gopher defender to extend the Maryland lead back up to eight.

The Terps made their next two buckets, slowly continuing to grow the lead over the ensuing minutes as Minnesota continued to struggle in the absence of any sense of offensive groove. And after the Hamilton bucket, all that was left was for the defense to keep doing its job down the stretch, forcing the Golden Gopher’s first loss at home this season.

“Minnesota is a terrific team, especially in this building. So for us to come in here and hold them to 49 shows you the guys were really locked in defensively today,” Turgeon said.

Three things to know

1. Maryland makes history. For the first time in program history, Maryland has defeated three AP Top 25 opponents on the road in the same season. The Terps upset then-No. 6 Wisconsin, 70-64, on Dec. 28, followed by a stunning 66-63 victory over then-No. 12 Illinois on Jan. 10. Now, Maryland has capped it off by handing the Golden Gophers their first loss at The Barn in 2020-21.

2. Eric Ayala looked back like himself. After missing two games while nursing a groin injury, Ayala had an up and down showing in a loss against Michigan, clearly not in his normal groove. It was clear that he was back in form from the opening tip at The Barn, which was vital to Maryland’s success. The guard had an outstanding first half, scoring 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the floor. He ended with 21 point, four rebounds and three steals.

3. The Terps won the rebounding battle. As an undersized team going against one of the best rebounding teams in the conference, winning the battle on the boards seemed a tall task for the Terps on Saturday afternoon. But Maryland did just that, holding a Minnesota team that thrives on the offensive glass to just seven offensive rebounds and 30 total rebounds. The Terps finished with 38 rebounds themselves, with Scott leading that effort with 11 of his own.