The Maryland men's basketball team outlasted Purdue on Saturday, 72-61, in one of the Terrapins' ugliest and simultaneously impressive efforts of the season.
The No. 4 Terps were decidedly off for the majority of the evening, mostly buoyed by forward Robert Carter Jr. and a boisterous home crowd of 17,950. But the Terps charged ahead to put away the 18th-ranked Boilermakers in the game's final five minutes, with Rasheed Sulaimon and a previously cold Melo Trimble joining Carter to give Maryland the space it needed.
Carter had one of his greatest games, mixing 19 points with 7 rebounds and 3. Sulaimon double-doubled with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Trimble shot a brutal 2-of-12 from the field but scored 14 points mostly at the foul line and had 7 assists against 1 turnover. In a challenging matchup game for him, Diamond Stone chipped in 12 points and 6 boards.
Maryland's win leaves it at 21-3 overall and 10-2 in the Big Ten, in a commanding position to secure a double bye in the conference's March tournament in Indianapolis. The Terps host Bowie State in a quirkily scheduled non-conference game on Tuesday night before Wisconsin visits next Saturday.
Maryland started quickly, feeding from the opening tip off a frenetic home environment. Carter splashed two almost immediate 3-pointers, and Maryland's brigade of big men guarded admirably against the Boilers' two 7-foot centers, A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas. The Terps led 18-10 when Purdue launched into a 10-0 run in the middle of the first half, a spurt that set the teams on a close course for the remainder of the evening. Purdue led at halftime, 30-27.
The Terps and Boilers stayed on each other's tails as the game wound toward its finish. They wound up swapping leads 11 times, with Maryland fighting to find offense amid a gory day for Trimble and Purdue leaning in the second half on its mountainous centers, Haas and Hammons.
Maryland had been in these games so many times before, unable to get comfortable and unable to find falling shots. This game was very much on that course with a little less than 6 minutes to play. Maryland trailed, 51-47, when Carter came open in the right corner and popped in a 3-pointer.
A Maryland stop led to a Sulaimon score to put the Terps up a point, and the Terps' guards took over. Trimble scored on a lay-in, Sulaimon hit two free throws and Trimble dizzied the Boilers to set up a Stone flush. That's about when the top blew off the arena, with Maryland suddenly up 5 points and on an 11-2 run over about 3 minutes. Sulaimon added an and-one score with just more than a minute to play, and Purdue finally took its dagger.
Three things to know
1. Robert Carter Jr.'s uniquely brilliant season continued. When the story of this Maryland era is done and written, fans won't look back on many players more fondly than Carter. He's given the Terps a special brand of dominance all season, and he showed up in enormous fashion on Saturday - with full-court passes to set up transition lay-ups for Rasheed Sulaimon, improbable rebounding and, as ever, buckets of points.
2. Maryland still didn't rebound well enough. And maybe that's understandable against a team of literal giants, but Purdue had 9 offensive rebounds to Maryland's 4, which isn't ideal on Gary Williams Court.
3. At home, Maryland's just different. If you had the sense that Maryland was ever going to lose this game, you probably shouldn't have. The Terps ran their home winning streak to a remarkable 26 games, and they did it an equally remarkable fashion. Maryland's best player by many metrics, Trimble, had one of the least efficient shooting nights of his college career. Maryland's bench scored a total of 2 points against a ranked opponent with a top-10 defense. And the Terps won by 11 points.