Down two points with under a minute left against No. 24 Purdue, Maryland men’s basketball desperately needed a stop. The defense had played tremendously all night long, and it did just that on the crucial play, forcing guard Jayden Ivey into a deep three-point miss.
Junior guard Eric Ayala then drove into the paint on the other end, weaving his way past multiple Purdue defenders to get to the bucket and draw the bonus shot. He made the first try, but couldn’t make good on the second to tie the game.
The Terps’ defense once again forced the Boilermakers into a miss on the following possession, leaving the home team with 16.6 seconds to win the game following a timeout.
With the ball once again in his hands, Ayala dribbled into the paint, hoping to have similar success down low. He put up a shot, but it didn’t drop, nearly putting the contest in jeopardy. But he grabbed his own rebound and drew the foul to give Maryland a one-point lead with 3.3 seconds left.
The Boilermakers had the chance to quickly get the ball up the floor to win it, but the Terps’ defense once again came up clutch, forcing a turnover as the seconds ticked down to seal a 61-60 victory.
“I think we always answer when our backs are against the wall,” senior guard Darryl Morsell said. “...We knew we had to get stops in order to win. So I think we locked in when it mattered, got the stops necessary and we all made some big shots.”
Leading up to the matchup, consistency was the key concern for head coach Mark Turgeon’s squad. The team knew its identity rested in its defense, but its effort and energy on that side of the ball had fluctuated from game to game. Tuesday night was the Terps’ chance to follow up on their goal of going hard on every possession to earn their first victory in College Park and upset another ranked opponent. And it did just that in the final minute of play.
“I told our staff...today, I said, ‘Guys, we have to get this win if we’re going to do anything,’” Turgeon said after the win. “Today was really important. It would have really made it difficult for us to be a part of a postseason if we didn’t win today.”
The two teams were locked in a tight matchup from the opening tip, with neither team scoring more than 10 points until around eight minutes remained in the first half, at which point Purdue jumped out to a 11-9 lead.
After struggling to guard Wisconsin in the opening period of its last matchup, the Terps’ defense forced the Boilermakers to start the game 3-for-10 from the floor and frequently turn the ball over.
Though it showed much better ball movement than it had in previous games, Maryland had trouble getting looks it liked against a stifling Boilermaker defense at times. Still, players got into the paint to draw fouls and were already in the bonus with 9:45 left until halftime — though that didn’t end up amounting to much.
As the half went on, the team found more open shots, but the Terps couldn’t knock them down— a common occurrence throughout this season, especially in the opening period. Maryland entered the break with an 1-of-12 mark on the three ball. The team didn’t shoot the ball particularly well at any other part of the floor either, boasting just a 40.9% field goal percentage after 20 minutes.
With Purdue up 27-22, the largest lead of the game up until that point, and under a minute left in the half, Maryland knew it had to make something happen.
Ayala aggressively drove into the paint, drawing two defenders close to the basket. Instead of taking the contested shot, he found an open Hakim Hart on the left corner of the arc. After receiving the bounce pass, Hart took a dribble, pump-faked his defender and drained a deep two-pointer to trim the deficit to three entering the break.
Turgeon often threw his hands up in disgust as he watched the Boilermakers’ shots fall to start the second half, clearly frustrated with the Terps’ defensive effort not carrying over from the first. The head coach and his staff showed a lot of the emotion throughout the contest as they tried to guide the team to its first victory on its home court. He said earlier this week that Maryland couldn’t take a single possession off, and if they did, the staff was quick to remind them.
Up by six points, Purdue had a chance to gain its largest lead of the contest and drain the life out of the home team. But the Terps weren’t going to let that happen; there was too much at stake.
Ayala pressured guard Isaiah Thompson as he tried to make something happen outside of the arc, eventually forcing the Boilermaker to throw a bounce pass to Treivon Williams in the paint. Met by a swarm of Maryland players, Williams tried for an outlet pass, but Morsell leapt in the air to intercept the ball.
The senior guard sprinted down the court, took a moment slow his roll and then tossed a dime to Ayala on the left side of the arc. Ayala quickly threw up the triple, bringing the game back within reach.
“I thought Darryl was terrific all night,” Turgeon said. “Defensively, his leadership, he was just not going to let us lose.”
The Terps didn’t allow Purdue to score on the two following possessions and began to find their rhythm on offense, with Aaron Wiggins draining a triple from the top of the arc to tie the game at 36-36.
Purdue made a shot on its next trip down the floor, but Wiggins followed it with another triple from the same spot, prompting his teammates on the bench to jump out of their seats, high-fiving, yelling and waving towels around. Maryland could tell it was right back in the close game; the question was whether it could capitalize on that momentum.
“Our mindset was just stay confident and we knew shots were gonna fall in the second half,” Wiggins said. “Once we got going, there was nothing that you could do to stop us.”
As the close game continued to go back and forth, Maryland’s defense once again played the hero as it held Purdue without a field goal for 3:21. Still, the contest was up for anyone to take, and the Boilermakers knew it. They then made five of their next seven shots to lead 52-48 with 4:53 left.
Purdue continued to hold a slim lead as the minutes ticked down. Similarly to their first matchup of the season, which the Boilermakers took 73-70 after the Terps failed to convert at the line late, the contest would come down to the wire. But this time around, The Terps refused to let a victory slip out of their grasp.
“A lot of our guys were emotional because we knew we could get it and everyone believed it,” Wiggins said. “...It was a really good win for us. You know, it gives us confidence as we continue to play in such a tough conference and against great teams.”
Three things to know
1. Maryland forced Purdue into early mistakes. Purdue has been one of the most turnover-prone teams in the Big Ten this season, and Maryland made sure to take advantage of that right away. Led by its senior guard Darryl Morsell, the Terps forced 11 first half turnovers, just two off of what the Boilermakers average per game.
Purdue finished the game with 15 total turnovers, leading to eight points for Maryland off those turnovers.
2. The Terps were beaten on the boards early. For the second consecutive game, Maryland lost the rebounding matchup. Purdue held a dominant 17-9 advantage on the boards at the halftime break, including six on the offensive glass. The Boilermakers went on to out-rebound the Terps 33-24, with just one Terp in Wiggins recording more than four boards. But at the moment it mattered most, Maryland got the rebounds it needed to seal the game.
3. Treivon Williams bounced back in a big way. In the last meeting of these two teams, foul trouble limited Trevion Williams from being able to get into his dynamic offensive rhythm. That wasn’t the case on Tuesday night, as Williams attacked the Terps at will from the game’s opening tip.
He poured in 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting, pulling down 11 rebounds as well to tie a game-high. However, it was Williams’ mistake on Purdue’s final possession of the game that sealed the win for the Terps.