Midway through the first half, guard Don Carey found the red-hot forward Donta Scott open in front of Minnesota’s bench. Scott splashed home the triple as he starred in what could be his final Big Ten Tournament run.
No. 6 seed Maryland men’s basketball (20-11, B1G 11-9) became the first higher-seeded team to win in the Big Ten Tournament after dismantling No. 14 seed Minnesota (9-21, B1G 2-17) 70-54.
“Just getting back on a neutral court was really nice to be honest with you,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “We play well neutral…it was good just to get a different feel.”
The Terps will take on No. 3 seed Indiana Friday night as Maryland improved its neutral site record to 3-1.
Tonight guard Jahmir Young struggled in the first half, but the rest of the offense did not as most importantly Scott broke out of a short slump. The senior bounced back from a one-point outing against Penn State, scoring eight points in the first nine minutes, including hitting two three-pointers.
“My teammates really found me early on, and I have faith in my shot just like Coach has faith in my shot,” Scott said. “Even though it hasn’t been falling, they told me to keep shooting. I felt like I got hot early on.”
The teams traded 8-0 scoring runs in the early goings before Maryland reclaimed the lead for good using a 6-0 run with baskets by forward Julian Reese and guard Ian Martinez. Scott added another three-pointer as he scored 16 points in the first half converting on 4-of-5 shots from beyond the arc, helping the Terps maintain a lead.
Maryland’s frontcourt was in foul trouble for much of the game as Reese picked up two quick fouls and then forward Patrick Emilien picked up three. Seldom-used center Caelum Swanton-Rodger came in and also picked up three quick fouls in just three minutes.
“I think I play guys with two fouls more than just about anybody because I have a lot of confidence in those guys, especially Julian,” Willard said. “He understands how not to foul at times.”
But Minnesota would not go away, using a well-rounded attack to keep within striking distance entering halftime just trailing 31-24.
Carey continued his hot streak with two three-pointers in the second half, increasing the lead to 41-26 with 17:23 to go. The Georgetown transfer finished the game with 11 points, including three three-pointers as Carey recorded double-digit points in the fifth straight game.
Minnesota also faced foul trouble, with three starters picking up four fouls midway through the second half. Maryland held star Golden Gophers forward Jamison Battle scoreless in the first half. Battle scored his first basket eight minutes into the second half after missing his first three shots and finished the game with two points.
Golden Gophers received a major spark off the bench with forward Pharrel Payne who provided quality minutes for Minnesota. Payne continued his streak of making all his shots in the Big Ten Tournament. The freshman against Maryland was perfect from the field, scoring on all four of his shots and five free throws. Payne also grabbed seven rebounds keeping Minnesota in the game as Maryland couldn’t pull away until late.
Maryland played clean basketball down the stretch not letting its foul trouble hurt themselves into earning the program’s fourth-ever win in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Terps finally found a groove with about eight minutes to go when guard Hakim Hart earned an and-one opportunity after making a layup and the senior completed the three-point play after a media timeout. Hart’s free throw put Maryland up 54-41 and started a stretch where the Terps made five of their last eight shots.
Minnesota guard Braden Carrington hit back-to-back three-pointers, making it a 56-47 game with six minutes to go but the Golden Gophers’ foul trouble and constant turnovers hurt them from making a comeback. Maryland’s strong defense forced Minnesota into 15 turnovers, including nine steals.
But Maryland’s response continued with Scott finding his way to the basket and Young completing a three-point play after his jumper took a friendly bounce through the net, finally finding his groove from the floor.
Young scored 15 points in the second half doing most of his damage from the free throw line, shooting 8-for-9 from the charity stripe in the second half.
With Maryland closing out the win on the neutral court, the Terps get to play in another game with a chance to improve their seeding in the NCAA Tournament and continue the trend of lower seeds taking down the higher seeds.
“So it was good for us to get this first win to get under our feet,” Young said.