Terps restore order, just barely, in win over Tigers
COLLEGE PARK — The record books will show that the Maryland and Towson men’s basketball teams played Sunday and not much changed. The Terps played the Tigers for the 13th time, beat them for the 13th time, the local pecking order reinforced once more.
But the Terps’ reminder of how things have been and might always be was offered through gritted teeth, with frayed nerves. A 71-66 win over the Tigers before an announced 16,797 at Xfinity Center in the opening round of the Barclays Classic was by no means easy. It was hard-earned. It could have ended differently.
This was the first meeting in 20 years between the schools, and it seemed to pack enough momentum swings, lead changes and edge-of-your-seat drama to fill a two-decade series. It wasn’t until Maryland guard Kevin Huerter’s two free throws with 5.3 seconds remaining that the game was put away for good.
“We had nothing going, and we were able to win that game,” Terps coach Mark Turgeon said after his team’s fourth win in as many games. “I wasn’t sure if we could do it.”
Towson guard Deshaun Morman’s errant 3-pointer from the wing with nine seconds remaining could have tied the game at 69. Instead, the Terps collected the rebound and breathed a sigh of relief. It had been a long afternoon. At one point, the Tigers (2-1) seemed as if they might pull away, not have to come back.
Led by guard Mike Morsell (team-high 17 points) and Morman (15 points), Towson was up 49-36 early in the second half after a 9-0 run.
But the Terps scored 12 of the next 13 points, cutting the deficit to 50-48 after a 3-pointer by forward Justin Jackson (21 points) with11:02 left.
Again and again, Jackson was the difference. Barclays Classic
Among starters who took more than one shot Sunday, the freshman was one of two who finished above 50 percent from the field. He was 5-for-7 from beyond the 3-point line and 8-for-13 overall. But the most important ball that left his hand might have been one he blocked.
With the game tied at 58, Jackson blocked a shot inside by guard Brian Starr, sending the ball flying to Towson’s bench with a wave of his arm. Guard Anthony Cowan Jr. tracked down the miss, only barely, flinging it to Jackson as he went out of bounds. Cowan got the return pass and was off to the races. The only Terp who’d beaten him downcourt was Melo Trimble, open in the right corner.
“That was just a crazy sequence,” said Trimble, who had a game-high 27 points, making 16 of 17 free throws and four of 15 field-goal attempts. “Shooter’s mentality: Keep shooting. I shot it and I made it.”
Said Turgeon: “That block was big. I think it gave us a little confidence that we could figure this thing out.”
They did, but not with the ease of previous meetings. Of Maryland’s 12 wins in the series entering Sunday, all but two were by double digits. It was clear throughout that there would be little distance between the teams separated by less than 35 miles.
Sometimes that message was emphatic. Morman dunked on Terps center Damonte Dodd to tie the game at 64 with less than three minutes left, but Huerter’s onelegged, fadeaway jumper gave Maryland the lead again. Towson forward Arnaud William Adala Moto (11 points) evened the score at 66 with 86 seconds remaining with two free throws before Trimble pushed the Terps ahead at the foul line.