In the loss, No. 2 Maryland finally proves that they’re a contender

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — It’s going to be as weird to write this as it is to read, but Maryland, the previously undefeated No. 2 team in the country, proved more in their loss to No. 9 North Carolina than they have in any game they’ve played this season.

By a mile.

Let’s be honest here.

With a healthy Marcus Paige — with the Marcus Paige that showed up on Tuesday night, his first game of his senior season — the Tar Heels may very well be the best team in the country. Current No. 1 Kentucky has a strong argument for the top spot the way they manhandled a good Duke team, and no one in the country has been more impressive through three weeks than No. 3 Michigan State, but the Tar Heels were the consensus No. 1 team in the NBCSports.com preseason top 25. They were the preseason No. 1 team in the AP Poll and tied for the top spot in the preseason Coaches Poll with the Wildcats.

[RELATED: J. Cole, alley-oops and Marcus Paige]

Those projections were made under the assumption that Paige would be playing, and the reason that UNC has that one loss on their résumé is because Paige missed the season’s first six games with a broken bone in his hand. I truly believe that, by the way. The Tar Heels lost a road game to a tough, veteran, well-coached Northern Iowa team when they blew a 16-point second half lead because they didn’t have the leadership and big-play ability that Paige provides. They lost because they couldn’t stop the bleeding, and Paige is their band-aid.

So let’s ignore the number next to UNC’s name for time being.

Maryland went punch-for-punch on the road against the best team in the country, a former ACC rival. They overcame their early jitters — the Terps committed 12 derpy turnovers in the first 12 minutes of the game — and fought back from a self-inflicted 13-point first half deficit. They made enough big plays and big shots in a raucous, hostile environment to take the lead in the second half despite the fact that the Tar Heels were playing well.

Moral victories don’t mean much for an NCAA tournament résumé, but they sure as hell matter when it comes to national perception.

“I don’t like our team,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon told reporters after the game. “I love our team. I didn’t love our team until tonight. It sounds funny. We were 6-0 and lost a game, but my guys showed me a lot tonight.”

After a rough start — he committed four of those 12 early turnovers — Melo Trimble was absolutely sensational. He was unstoppable in ball-screen actions, finishing with 23 points and 12 assists while shooting 8-for-14 from the floor and 4-for-5 from three. He accounted for 20 of the 30 field goals that the Terps made on the night, including a stretch from the end of the first half through late in the second half where he was responsible for 14 of Maryland’s 15 field goals.

Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon was excellent as well, finishing with 18 points and three assists, hitting a number of big threes during Maryland’s second half surge. Robert Carter showed off the array of skills that has him drawing interest from NBA teams as well.

“I learned a lot about them tonight,” Turgeon said. “Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon were warriors out there tonight.”

[MORE: How Mark Turgeon came to love his team]

That’s relevant because Maryland has not been all that impressive early on this season. They were down 14 in the second to Rider at home. They were down seven with less than six minutes left against Illinois State. They needed a late run to hold on and beat a Georgetown team that lost at home to Radford three days earlier. There were plenty of reasons to wonder whether or not the Terps, whose success last season was a direct result of their knack for winning close games, were overrated entering the year.

Not anymore.

Not after that performance against that team in that venue.

But that doesn’t mean Maryland is without concern.

The Terps played far from a perfect game. It starts with the 22 turnovers they committed, an absurdly high number against a team that isn’t exactly known for their defensive prowess. Maryland was rattled early on. Jake Layman looked overwhelmed by the moment, finishing 1-for-5 from the floor with four fouls and three turnovers, and the question remains whether or not he’s going to be as effective this season as we was last season. Layman did his most efficient work last year playing as an undersized four in a small-ball lineup for the Terps. With Carter and Diamond Stone available this year, the Terps have enough depth to play two big men together, meaning Layman is going to spend the majority of his time at the three. Can he guard the quicker small forwards he’ll be facing? Can he be as effective offensively when he’s being guarded by a guy with similar physical tools?

Speaking of Stone, he showed flashes of why he may be a one-and-done prospect. He struggled on the defensive end and, for much of the game, looked like a freshman big man playing his first true road game. Jaylen Brantley still isn’t trusted enough by the Maryland coaching staff to be their third guard, the guy that spells Trimble and Sulaimon, who combined to play 73 of a possible 80 minutes.

Those are questions that still need to be answered.

Maryland is far from a finished product at this point.

But there’s time to work through those kinks. We are, after all, just three weeks into a season that stretches for five months.

What we do know now is that Maryland can handle themselves in a tough road environment, and that something like a 13-point deficit to the best team in the country isn’t going to keep them from having a chance to win.

In other words, we now have actual on-the-court evidence that the Terps can compete for a national title.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.

No. 12 Iowa State holds on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76

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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes matched his season high with 23 points as No. 12 Iowa State held on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76 on Tuesday night.

The Cyclones (15-4, 6-2 Big 12) moved into a three-way tie atop the conference standings with the Wildcats and Texas.

Gabe Kalscheur added 19 points for Iowa State. Osun Osunniyi finished with 16.

Markquis Nowell led Kansas State (17-3, 6-2) with 23 points.

A 3-pointer from Holmes gave Iowa State a 59-49 advantage with 8:12 remaining. Kansas State responded with a 10-1 run to trim the margin to 60-59.

Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer steadied the Cyclones and pushed the lead back to 63-59 with five minutes left.

Free throws by Osunniyi, Grill and Holmes sealed the victory in the final 24 seconds.

The first half featured eight lead changes and ended with Kansas State up 33-31.

A 3-pointer by Kalscheur ignited an early 9-0 run for the Cyclones and helped them build a 19-14 lead. Iowa State made just one of nine 3-point tries in the first 20 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State was trying to extend its best start to a season since 1961-62.

Iowa State improved to 11-0 at home. The Cyclones have not lost back-to-back games this season.

UP NEXT

Kansas State hosts Florida on Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Iowa State travels to Missouri on Saturday.

Georgetown snaps 29-game conference losing streak

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WASHINGTON – Primo Spears scored 21 points and Georgetown snapped a 29-game conference losing streak with an 81-76 victory over DePaul on Tuesday night.

Georgetown (6-15, 1-9) won its first Big East game since March 13, 2021, ending the longest skid in the history of the conference. The Hoyas also ended a 10-game losing streak this season.

Spears also contributed six assists for the Hoyas. Akok Akok scored 12 points and added six rebounds and four blocks and Brandon Murray recorded 12 points.

Umoja Gibson led the Blue Demons (9-12, 3-7) in scoring, finishing with 24 points, four assists and three steals. Javan Johnson added 13 points.

Spears scored nine points in the first half and Georgetown went into the break trailing 37-36. Georgetown used a 10-0 run in the second half to build a 12-point lead at 75-63 with 1:39 remaining.