Terps can’t fin­ish in rare close loss

PUR­DUE 73, MARY­LAND 72

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY RO­MAN STUBBS

Mary­land fresh­man Kevin Huerter re­mem­bered how cruel col­lege bas­ket­ball could be in a 73-72 loss to vis­it­ing Pur­due on Satur­day. Af­ter watch­ing his po­ten­tial game-win­ning three-pointer graze off the front of the rim, he turned around and slammed his fist into one of the chairs on the team’s bench. It was the last­ing im­age of a day that be­gan with such prom­ise, with the Ter­rap­ins rid­ing their best start in school his­tory and ea­ger to play a ranked op­po­nent for the first time all sea­son.

It had been 34 days since the 17th-ranked Ter­rap­ins last lost, in a late-game melt­down on its own floor against Ne­braska. What hap­pened Satur­day against the 23rd-ranked Boil­er­mak­ers was eerily sim­i­lar. Mary­land blew a 12-point lead in the sec­ond half and went the fi­nal 7:37 with­out a field goal, in­stead sub­sist­ing on 14 points off free throws, 11 of them by Melo Trim­ble.

It was Trim­ble who had a chance to break the drought and give his team a three-point lead with 16 sec­onds left, but his pull-up six-foot jumper fell short. That was off a play that Mary­land had rarely used this sea­son, and even af­ter it didn’t work, Ter­rap­ins Coach Mark Tur­geon was con­fi­dent his team would pull out its eighth straight win.

“I wanted to win it with de­fense,” he ad­mit­ted later, shak­ing his head as he re­called what hap­pened next: Pur­due guard Carsen Ed­wards drew a

foul on a driv­ing shot with 2.1 sec­onds left, then hit two free throws to give his team a one­point lead.

Mary­land (20-3, 8-2 Big Ten) still had two chances to win. The Ter­rap­ins at­tempted a long in­bounds pass that was in­ter­cepted by Pur­due cen­ter Isaac Haas. But Haas cel­e­brated too early, walk­ing to­ward cen­ter court with the ball still in his raised hand. He was called for trav­el­ing with a half­sec­ond left, giv­ing the Ter­rap­ins an­other in­bounds play, this time from un­der the bas­ket. With the Boil­er­mak­ers (19-5, 8-3) pack­ing the paint, as they had done all day, Huerter was left open for a cor­ner three-pointer that went beg­ging.

“It def­i­nitely was an op­por­tu­nity, but I think there’s go­ing to be a lot more op­por­tu­ni­ties com­ing up,” said Huerter, who fin­ished with 11 points. “It would’ve been a good win, to get the win, ob­vi­ously, in front of our home crowd and kind of get some re­spect be­hind our name.”

A sell­out crowd, in­clud­ing a stu­dent sec­tion that had stood in line a few hours be­fore tip-off to get in, qui­etly filed out of Xfin­ity Cen­ter af­ter the most an­tic­i­pated game of the sea­son. It marked just the third time that Mary­land has lost to a Big Ten op­po­nent on its home floor since it joined the league for the 2014-15 sea­son.

“This one hurts be­cause we played well enough to win,” said Tur­geon, who still seemed be­wil­dered by his team’s of­fen­sive strug­gles down the stretch.

Trim­ble fin­ished with 22 points on 4-for-15 shoot­ing, un­able to out­duel star sopho­more for­ward Caleb Swani­gan, who spear­headed Pur­due with 26 points and 10 re­bounds be­fore foul­ing out with 56 sec­onds re­main­ing. Swani­gan and Haas — the 7-foot-2, 290-pound mam­moth who was jeered at ev­ery turn — over­came Mary­land’s front­court, which re­ceived a ca­reer-high six blocks from ju­nior cen­ter Michal Cekovsky and an­other four from se­nior cen­ter Da­monte Dodd.

“Our post guys were great in post de­fense,” Tur­geon said. “They out­re­bounded us by three . . . and that’s pretty good for us. We bat­tled.”

But that couldn’t mask Mary­land’s in­abil­ity to make a shot af­ter it took a 52-40 lead on a vi­cious one-handed dunk by Huerter, set up by an as­sist from Cekovsky, with just less than 14 min­utes to play. Cekovsky played just 13 min­utes yet fin­ished with 10 points, in­clud­ing an al­ley-oop dunk that gave his team a 58-55 lead. Swani­gan re­sponded by ty­ing the game with a three­p­ointer with 7:20 re­main­ing.

Trim­ble found an­other gear shortly af­ter, call­ing for the ball and do­ing ev­ery­thing he could to get to the rim on sev­eral pos­ses­sions. Af­ter hit­ting a pair of free throws to give his team a 62-60 lead, Trim­ble re­ceived the ball on the en­su­ing pos­ses­sion, run­ning right into Haas on the left perime­ter with 5:36 left. Af­ter be­ing called for the foul, Haas was vis­i­bly frus­trated and re­ceived a tech­ni­cal foul, send­ing Trim­ble back to the line to help give Mary­land a 65-60 lead.

But then came an­other in­ex­pli­ca­ble scor­ing drought, ac­cen­tu­ated by ill-ad­vised deep three-point at­tempts by Huerter and fresh[40-37] man An­thony Cowan while the Boil­er­mak­ers made a 6-0 run to re­take the lead. Even af­ter Mary­land had re­gained a three-point lead on a pair of free throws af­ter Trim­ble drew the fifth and fi­nal foul on Swani­gan, Mary­land’s usual late-game moxie — the for­mula that has helped pro­duced nine wins by six points or fewer this sea­son — didn’t seem the same.

“We’re used to win­ning close games, not used to los­ing,” Tur­geon said. “To­day we just couldn’t get that last stop.”

JONATHAN NEW­TON/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Mary­land guard Melo Trim­ble scored 22 points, but the Ter­rap­ins’ seven-game win streak ended.

JONATHAN NEW­TON/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Kevin Huerter, shown de­fend­ing Pur­due guard Dakota Mathias, had 11 points and nine re­bounds but missed a po­ten­tial win­ning shot.

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