After playing a game in Baltimore in December 2015 for the first time in 17 years, the Maryland men’s basketball team returned to Royal Farms Arena on December 20 against the Charlotte 49ers. With one of the top scorers in program history serving as an honorary captain on the anniversary of a record-setting night, the Terrapins struggled in front of a crowd that was on their side.
A layup by Ivan Bender of Serbia gave Maryland a 7-5 lead just over three minutes into the game. However, that two-point lead quickly turned to a two-point deficit as the 49ers’ Andrien White hit a three-pointer from the right elbow, was fouled by Maryland’s Kevin Huerter, and then made the free throw to complete the four-point play. That started an 8-0 run by the 49ers that gave them a 13-7 lead. Bender and Michal Cekovsky got increased playing time because of an injury to starting center Damonte Dodd.
Upper Marlboro native Jon Davis then gave the 49ers their largest lead of the game at 32-22 by finishing a pass from Braxton Ogbueze for a layup with 5:42 left in the first half. Turnovers and an inability to hit open jump shots and finish layups plagued the Terrapins throughout the first half, but they fought back as the half came to a close.
After Najee Garvin committed an offensive foul with nine seconds left, Melo Trimble drove down the court, but missed a layup. Cekovsky finished the ensuing scramble by tipping in the ball to beat the halftime buzzer and pull Maryland to within 37-36 at halftime. Anthony Cowan had nine points and Cekovsky scored eight to lead the Terrapins in the first half. Maryland shot just one for six from the three-point line, and turned the ball over 13 times, leading to 14 points for Charlotte. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said Charlotte’s zone defense caught his team off-guard.
“We didn’t expect them to start in zone. We’ve been practicing in zone a lot, and it showed in the second half,” Turgeon said. “They did some things a little bit different in their zone, and we were just kind of standing around, and we just couldn’t really get any rhythm. The turnovers were disappointing…the no-look passes and throwing to guys that weren’t there.” Turgeon added that injuries and illness racked the team in the week leading up to the game.
The Terrapins got off to a fast and furious start in the second half, scoring on each of their first three possessions, capped by Cekovsky finishing off an alley-oop from Huerter. The layup gave Maryland a 42-39 lead and forced Charlotte to call a timeout just under a minute into the second half. The Terrapins retook the lead with an 11-2 run over a 3:42 stretch on a jumper by Bender and back-to-back-to-back three-pointers by Huerter and Cowan for a 56-49 lead with 11:15 left. Another three by Jared Nickens just over 30 seconds later extended the lead to 60-51. A goaltending call on an attempted layup by junior guard Melo Trimble gave Maryland a 67-55 lead when a media timeout was called with 7:32 left in regulation. However, the 49ers wouldn’t go away.
Davis scored 6 straight points for the 49ers to pull them to within 69-61, but L.G. Gill set up Nickens for a three-pointer that stretched the Maryland lead back out to 72-61 with just under six minutes left in regulation. Trimble and Brantley then hit back-to-back threes to give the Terrapins an 83-64 lead with 3:47 remaining, effectively putting the game out of reach. Maryland
closed out the game on a 16-9 run over the last five and a half minutes and cruised to a 88-72 win before a paid crowd of 7,139, improving to 12-1 heading into Big Ten play. Trimble finished with 21 points (17 in the second half) to lead the Terrapins, while freshman Anthony Cowan added 16. Cekovsky, Huerter and Bender each finished with 10. Davis led all scorers with 28 points for the 49ers.
This was the second straight year that Maryland has played a game in Baltimore, which is home to a significant portion of the team’s fan base. Turgeon praised the crowd in Baltimore.
“It’s the best crowd we’ve had in three or four games, so I was proud of that. Our guys like coming over here. Every time I come to this city, there are so many Terp fans over here that make you feel special, so we’ve enjoyed it the last two years. Of course, we won both games, which helps, and we’ve had great crowds, so it’s been a lot of fun,” Turgeon said.
During the first media timeout of the second half, honorary captains Ernie and Jon Graham were recognized. Ernie currently ranks 13th on the all-time scoring list at Maryland. On December 20, 1978, Graham set Maryland’s single-game scoring record by scoring 44 points as the Terrapins defeated North Carolina State 124-110 in the season opener of the 1978-1979 Atlantic Coast Conference at Cole Field House. Jon, a graduate of Calvert Hall College in Towson, played for two years at Penn State before transferring to Maryland for his senior season last year.
Maryland will begin its Big Ten schedule on Dec. 27 against Illinois at the Xfinity Center in College Park.