October 20, 2017

Maryland Basketball: Terps play great defense, but Melo Trimble struggles in semi-finals loss to No. 2 Spartans

When the Maryland Terrapins upset the then No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes everyone thought it would be the Terps best win of the season. At that point in time it looked great but the Hawkeyes have been struggling more than Maryland recently by losing six of their last eight contests. With the Terps being projected as a five speed in the NCAA tournament, a would-be huge disappointment, With the second best team in the country, Michigan State, next up in the Big Ten tournament, Maryland had a chance to climb up the seed line.

Unfortunately, it looked like the Terps would get embarrassed early because of lack of transition defense. In the second half it was the “best we [Maryland] guarded in a longtime” according to Mark Turgeon which gave the Terps a chance, but a field goal drought of over 10 minutes doomed the upset hopes. With a drop in shooting percentage by a whopping 30 percent from yesterday’s record breaking performance, Michigan State squeaked past Maryland 64-61.

Point forward Denzel Valentine runs Spartans offense to perfection

(Photo by: @ESPN)

(Photo by: @ESPN)

Current Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green is the greatest compliment of a comparison for Denzel Valentine and it is warranted beyond both playing under Tom Izzo at Michigan State. Valentine has the offensive game to drive and shoot the 3-pointer but is consistently looking to get his teammates involved. In the first half along Valentine had NINE assists. The Big Ten tournament record set by Michigan’s Derrick Walton yesterday of 12 seemed to be in jeopardy. Terps played decent defense in the half court set but it was Valentine’s orchestration of the offense in transition, 10 points off four Maryland turnovers, that was the difference in the first half.

Little goes Maryland’s way in the first half, but 3-point shooting keeps game within reach

Despite 6 of 11 shooting from beyond the arc, everything else for Maryland pretty much went wrong in the first half. Fresh off a Big Ten tournament record 97 points last night, the Terps shot just 5 of 18 (27.8 percent) from inside the 3-point arc. A lot of that could be attributed to what Mark Turgeon believed to be a lack of foul calls from the officials. The fifth-year head coach at Maryland had enough after Rasheed Sulaimon was mugged on one of his drives by exploding on the referees running towards him to earn a technical foul.

The Terps were also victims of a soft double-technical foul against Jake Layman, which had him on the bench for nearly half the first half as it counted as one of his two personal fouls. More bad luck ensued when Melo Trimble, fighting to get over a screen, was hit right on the nose with a Valentine pass. It would force Trimble to sit for a few minutes while the cut inside his left nostril could finally get clotted.

Midway through the second half Terps make their run

Every time Maryland cut the deficit to four in the second half, Michigan State had a response. With 11:51 left to play, the Terps were down 53-45 before their shots started to fall. Maryland had a quick 8-0 run within a minute’s time as Layman made a 3-pointer followed by a grown man lay in by Diamond Stone. The Terps went right back to Stone on the very next play where the freshman had a smart pass to Melo Trimble for a 3-pointers after the preseason Big Ten player of the year started the game 0 of 9. Maryland would extend their run to 12-3 and get their first lead since 15:38 in the first half. Unfortunately that lead only lasted 19 seconds.

While the defense keeps them in it, Terrapins offense goes to sleep

Michigan State had 41 points in the first half thanks to transition offense. In the second half Maryland was absolutely locked in with the turning point probably being Mark Turgeon getting hit with a technical foul. Michigan State had only 23 points in the second half, Denzel Valentine was held to just one assist in the second half while the Terps forced nine turnovers. Over the final eleven minutes, not including Maryland purposely giving Michigan State free throws to extend the game, the Spartans had just seven points. On the flip side, the Terps offense was non-existent. Despite getting into the bonus with 12:48 left to play, Maryland had just eight points in the final 10 minutes of play coinciding with 10 minutes without a field goal. As magnificently as the Terrapins played defensively, they lost 64-61 as a result of not getting enough offense despite all the talent in the world.

The roller coaster season for Melo Trimble continues

It is not surprising the Maryland’s performance is directly correlated to their point guard play from Melo Trimble. In their three losses in late February Trimble was a miserable 8 of 37 (21.6 percent) from the field. After 16 points on 6 of 13 shooting including four made 3-pointers, everyone believed Melo Trimble was back.  A 2 of 15 shooting line with just two assists would beg differently. My guess would be fatigue set in for Trimble although he has tried to take care of his body better this season. It would explain why he could not get enough lift on his potential game-winning layup attempt. Going forward there will not be anymore back-to-back games, but Maryland has to hope Trimble can play better consistently.

It is yet another Big Ten tournament semi-final exit at the hands of Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans as the Terps will wait to hear their fate regarding the NCAA tournament tomorrow.

About Neil Dalal

Neil Dalal is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins, Wizards, and Maryland Terrapins. Neil grew up in Silver Spring, MD and attends the University of Maryland. Neil has loved everything related to the Redskins, Wizards, Capitals, and Terrapins since he was eight years old. However, he favors the Orioles, as he started watching baseball before the Expos moved to DC. You can follow Neil on Twitter @NeilDalal96.

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