By Gio Insignares
Frowns turned into smiles and groans turned into raucous roars during the final seconds of the No. 16 Maryland Terrapins’ matchup against the Northwestern Wildcats on Monday night.
What threatened to be the most disappointing loss of the season instead turned into an electrifying finish. After dramatically climbing back from a game-long deficit, the Terps still had one more heart-pounding moment before all was said and done.
With Maryland down by one with just under 10 seconds to go, the ball was in the hands of arguably the most dynamic freshman player in the country—Melo Trimble.
As he dribbled up the court, there was no doubt in the minds of the 14,000 people at the XFINITY Center that Trimble was going to take the final shot.
Upon reaching the top of the key with only a few precious seconds remaining, Melo took aim and fired a dart of a three-pointer at the basket and watched as it circled the rim and spun out, effectively ending the Terps’ chance at the comeback victory.
However, as the ball made its way back down, senior superstar Dez Wells decided to end the game on his terms, instead.
He leapt into the air, grabbed the rebound, and before even landing back on the ground tossed up a shot that hit the glass and fell through the net. Wells had given the Terps a one-point lead with 1.4 seconds to go.
The cheers of the crowd roared through the XFINITY Center, and after Northwestern inbounded the ball and missed their last second heave at the basket, the crowd was absolutely ecstatic.
Maryland had survived by the skin of their teeth and snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat, 68-67.
When asked after the game about the result, Head Coach Mark Turgeon couldn’t hide is joy, even if he wasn’t all that excited about the team’s overall performance.
“Obviously, I’m really happy for the outcome…I’m really happy for a lot of people,” Turgeon said. “I’m happy for the team and our players; they kept fighting, they kept fighting on a night that they weren’t terrific or great.”
Trimble had 27 points on the night and Wells finished with 17 points, respectively, while no one else on the team finished in double figures.
Maryland, which had only shot 44.5 percent from the floor all season, struggled to make shots most of the night, finishing 40.7 percent in field goal shooting.
After a tight back-and forth game early, Northwestern began to pull away. Led by Bryant McIntosh, who shot 10-14 and finished with 21 points, the Wildcats raced to a 25-13 lead with 10:09 left in the first half.
At that point, Northwestern ran the court with breathtaking efficiency; they made shots whenever they needed to and never let Maryland get into any kind of rhythm.
For every shot that clanked off the rim for the Terps, Northwestern would seemingly drill one through the net at the other end.
Turgeon, while acknowledging Northwestern’s ability, believed his team’s struggles were more to do with their lack of execution than anything else.
“You have to give Northwestern credit, but we were out of it defensively and rushing on offense,” he said. “So hopefully we can learn to that and pay more attention to what we are doing.”
As the Wildcats lead increased (and Maryland failed at every attempt to capitalize on momentum), the groans of the fans at the Xfinity Center grew louder. A second loss in a row for the Terps seemed inevitable.
However, after the last media timeout, the Terps took it upon themselves to finish out strong.
“This shows that this group is full of winners; we have a lot of basketball ahead of us but they never give up and figure out ways to win,” Turgeon proclaimed after the game. “In the last media timeout they kept telling each other, we can do this.”
With 3:28 to go and down 63-52, Maryland finished the game on a 16-4 run that was capitalized by aggressive defense, clutch baskets, and of course the Dez Wells buzzer beater. Overall, the mood of both coaches and players was enthusiasm tempered with some hard-felt relief.
“I know that they are proud of themselves for the way that they came back but I also know that they are smart enough and mature enough to know that they have to be a lot better,” Turgeon pointed out during his press conference.
Like they showed during their double overtime win earlier this year at Michigan State, this Terps team has a resiliency and camaraderie that arguably wasn’t present in previous seasons.
“Every night is going to be a battle for us because we aren’t a team that can just show up and beat teams,” Turgeon said. “But you have to win games like this to have a great year.”
With the win, No. 16 Maryland advances to 18-3 on the season and 6-2 in conference play, while Northwestern drops to 10-10 on the year and 1-6 in B1G play.
The Terps travel later this week and will hit the court again on Thursday, January 29, at Ohio State against the Buckeyes.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.