Maryland suffered one of the ugliest losses anywhere in college basketball this season, falling 68-63 to previously winless-in-Big Ten-play Minnesota on Thursday night. The Golden Gophers, who entered 0-13 in league play and a college basketball laughingstock, shocked the Terps at Williams Arena.
The Terps stormed back from an 11-point halftime deficit to take a late lead, but they faltered on several chances to seal the game in its final seconds. A Melo Trimble turnover in transition, with Maryland down a point with 30 seconds left, led to two Minnesota free throws that put the game mostly on ice. It was one of the worst games of Trimble's career, with the sophomore scoring 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting and pairing 6 assists with 6 turnovers.
Rasheed Sulaimon, conversely, gave Maryland one of the best games of his life. He scored a career-high 28 points and at times singlehandedly kept Maryland afloat, in a game where the Terps were otherwise putrid nearly from wire to wire.
The loss takes Maryland out of control of its own destiny for the Big Ten's regular season title, a game back in the loss column of Iowa and Indiana. The Terps are 22-5 and 10-4 in the Big Ten ahead of Sunday's date with Michigan at Xfinity Center.
The first 20 minutes of Maryland's night were the basketball equivalent of a 37-car wreck underneath a collapsing skyscraper in the midst of a Category 5 hurricane. It was a gruesome display, with Maryland letting the Gophers' putrid offense put up 40 points by halftime and displaying nothing resembling a rhythm on offense. The Terps went to Robert Carter Jr. for a post score on their first possession and then barely fed him again, and Sulaimon was the only Terrapin driving the play in Minnesota's end. But Sulaimon, lacking help, pressed at times.
Maryland scored the first 5 points of the second half, and it looked for a second as if the Terps would quickly storm past an inferior opponent and coast to victory, only a few minutes later than expected. That wasn't quite how it turned out, but the Terps managed to whittle it back to a two-score game with just inside 10 minutes left.
Sulaimon gave them the lead with a 3-pointer in the final few minutes, but that turned out to be the only edge the Terps would get. The Gophers had a 1-point lead in the last minute when Maryland forced a turnover and had a shot at a transition basket to take a lead it could've kept, but Trimble coughed up the ball for his sixth turnover. The Gophers proceeded to the foul line, where they got all the points they needed to close out their first league win.
Three things to know
1. This was highly discouraging. Minnesota entered this game with as many wins in Big Ten play as you did, personally. The Gophers are absolutely terrible, and despite their having stayed competitive in a handful of challenging games this season, it's nothing less than really troubling that Maryland couldn't do better than this.
2. Melo Trimble still doesn't have it. It seems likelier than not that Trimble's dealing with more injury problems than we realize. He's a terrific player and a godsend for Maryland, but he's in the midst of the driest spell of his two-year college career. That continued on Thursday, and it's getting to be a worry with postseason play so close.
3. Maybe Maryland will get better. Maybe not. When a team brings on three new starters in a season, it's reasonable for even a group as talented as Maryland to take time to come together. When the Terps were rough around the edges earlier in the season, it was fine. Now, they're headed into the last week of February and looking more disheveled than ever before, and it's going to be March in the flick of an eye.