COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) Instead of taking medicine and resting in bed, Melo Trimble found the best cure for his illness was simply playing basketball.
Trimble fueled a second-half surge that put No. 22 Maryland in control, and the Terrapins beat Rutgers 67-55 on Tuesday night to remain in first place in the Big Ten.
Trimble was too sick to practice Monday, but he showed no sign of illness while repeatedly slicing through Rutgers’ defense. The 6-foot-3 junior guard scored 17 points on 5-for-8 shooting and had four assists and six rebounds in 34 minutes.
“I felt terrible yesterday. I felt a little better today,” Trimble said. “When you get in the game, you don’t feel sick anymore.”
After seeing how bad Trimble looked on Monday, coach Mark Turgeon wasn’t sure if his star player would be able to help Maryland strive for its fifth straight win.
“I was worried about him,” Turgeon said. “I didn’t know what we were going to get out of him. I probably played him more than I wanted to play him, but he kept saying he was fine.”
Freshman Kevin Huerter had 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Terrapins (18-2, 6-1), who own their best record after 20 games since the 1998-99 season.
“I don’t know that any of us expected this,” Turgeon said. “The exciting thing for me is we can get so much better. We can play better than we’re playing, starting with rebounding and taking care of the ball.”
Maryland was outrebounded 40-39 and committed 18 turnovers, but Trimble was the difference-maker.
Facing a team that has never won a conference game on the road, the Terrapins led only 38-35 shortly after halftime before Trimble took over. He threw an outlet pass that led to a breakaway layup, then drilled a 3-pointer from the corner. Huerter followed with a 3 to make it 46-35 – too big a deficit for Rutgers to make up.
Maryland entered the game tied with Wisconsin atop the Big Ten standings.
The Scarlet Knights (12-9, 1-7) went 10 for 24 at the free throw line in losing for the eighth time in nine games. Rutgers hasn’t beaten a ranked team since 2008.
Coach Steve Pikiell liked seeing his team grab 22 offensive rebounds and score 32 points in the paint, but lamented the missed foul shots by his big men.
“If you’re not converting those free throws you can go inside all you want,” Pikiell said. “You’ve got to take advantage of the freebies.”
Despite the loss, the Scarlet Knights put up a decent fight. Down by 16 with 12 minutes left, they cut the gap to nine with 5:24 to go but didn’t have enough firepower to complete the comeback.
Corey Sanders scored 15 points for Rutgers and Nigel Johnson had 14.
Trimble and L.G. Gill each made a 3-pointer in the final 55 seconds of the first half to give the Terrapins a 34-29 lead.
Rutgers trailed 18-11 before Johnson drilled a 3-pointer to spark a 9-1 run that forced Turgeon to call a timeout. Minutes later, Sanders connected from beyond the arc to give the Scarlet Knights their largest lead, 25-22.
Rutgers: Though they hung tough for most of the first half, the Scarlet Knights aren’t good enough yet to beat a Big Ten team on the road – let alone a ranked foe that plays exceptionally well on its own court.
Maryland: Defeating Rutgers at home isn’t exactly a noteworthy accomplishment, but in doing so the Terrapins enhanced their stature as a Top 25 team that’s one of the best in the Big Ten.
It surely would have been a closer game if the Scarlet Knights were better at the line.
“It hurts,” Sanders said. “We need to make free throws. Nobody is guarding you; you just have to will it in.”
Maryland took fewer free throws (19) – a rarity for the Terps at home – but made 13.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights face another ranked team, No. 15 Wisconsin, on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Maryland: The Terps put their perfect road record on the line Saturday at Minnesota. The Golden Gophers upset visiting Maryland last February.