A home loss is never a good thing, but No. 17 Maryland can take plenty away from Saturday’s 73-72 loss to No. 23 Purdue. The Terrapins (20-3, 8-2 Big Ten) dropped to second place in the Big Ten Conference, but they proved themselves a legitimate conference title contender on Saturday. Injury-riddled Indiana aside, Purdue (19-5, 8-3) was the first Big Ten contender that Maryland has faced this season.
It was hard to get a true read on Maryland prior to Saturday. The Terrapins were clearly a good team, but they hadn’t faced a single ranked team or a team that had a chance of winning one of the Power Five conferences. Some of the doubts were answered on Saturday, as Maryland went toe-to-toe with Purdue for 40 minutes, and should have come away with a win despite going without a field goal for the final 7 minutes, 38 seconds.
The Terrapins led down the stretch until Purdue’s Carsen Edwards hit a pair of free throws with three seconds left to give the Boilermakers the 73-72 win. Maryland has made a habit of winning close games this season, but, if you keep playing close games, you’re going to get one like Saturday.
As much credit as Maryland’s Melo Trimble has gotten for his clutch play over the last three years, the junior guard left the game on the table against Purdue. Trimble had the ball in his hands the entire way down the stretch, putting his head down and drawing fouls the way he does. Trimble was the main reason the Terrapins didn’t make a field goal for more than seven minutes, but only because his attacking style allowed him to make 11 free throws down the stretch, as Maryland got its last 14 points from the line.
However, there was no drawing a foul when it really mattered. Leading by 72-71 with 38 seconds left, Trimble worked the clock down before taking a floater that hit the front of the rim with 16 seconds remaining. But Trimble didn’t use enough time, and Purdue called a timeout with six seconds left to set up the play that led to Edwards’ game-winning free throws.
Maryland had a final chance, drawing up a play for freshman Kevin Huerter, whose 3-pointer from the right corner didn’t drop. That play alone showed what the Terrapins are about this year. As much as they rely on Trimble, head coach Mark Turgeon has showed trust in his trio of freshman starters — Huerter, Anthony Cowan and Josh Jackson.
Saturday also showed that Maryland has what it takes to compete when its shots aren’t falling, as the Terrapins shot just 39.7 percent (23-for-58) from the field, including 21.1 percent (4-for-19) from behind the arc against Purdue. A huge part of that was the play of the relatively unheralded big men. The duo of Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky were more than up to the task against Purdue’s giants. Caleb Swanigan got his numbers for the Boilermakers, finishing with 26 points and 10 rebounds, but Maryland made it difficult on the likely Big Ten Player of the Year. Swanigan committed three turnovers and was visibly frustrated at times, while Haas was held to 9 points and four rebounds on 3-of-10 shooting.
Cekovsky, in particular, stood out, as the 7-foot-1 center from Slovakia finished with 10 points and six blocks in just 13 minutes of play. Dodd added 9 points, five rebounds and four blocks. While the Terrapins won’t face another team like Purdue, the ability of their big men could be huge for a team that is heavily guard oriented.
The Terrapins will look to bounce back when they visit Penn State on Tuesday and host Ohio State on Saturday. They’ll need to stack up wins before a tough stretch when they visit Northwestern on Feb. 15 and head to Wisconsin on Feb. 19.