We knew that this was the type of team that could beat Maryland. Rider flirted with it. Georgetown flirted with it. Illinois State flirted with it. It was the reason Wisconsin was able to tie the game late before Melo Trimble’s heroics bailed his team out.
Stretch the floor and shoot well from the outside and you’ll have a chance to beat the Terrapins. Michigan is the most talented team to do that so far this season against Maryland and that combination of skill and executing a game plan earned John Beilein's team a 70-67 upset in Ann Arbor on Tuesday night.
The Wolverines shot 41 percent on 29 three-point attempts. That shakes out to 12 makes, the most converted three-point attempts versus an AP Top 5 team in the last 20 seasons, per ESPN.
Did an early lack of execution on the perimeter defensively hurt Maryland? Absolutely. Michigan’s ability to start 3-of-4 from deep, along with 12 first-half points (all on threes) from 6-foot-8 guard Duncan Robinson set the tone and got the crowd into it.
Michigan was able to endure a second-half drought because they came out of halftime still firing and pushing their lead to 13 with 16:38 to go. That was enough of a cushion to sustain them.
Yes, Maryland has things it needs to fix. It starts with perimeter defense. There should be serious questions about the bench beyond Diamond Stone. But take a look at the positives that Maryland now knows about itself.
1) Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon can combine for 10 points on 4-of-17 shooting with 5 assists and seven turnovers and they still only lose a game by three points on the road to a Top 35 KenPom team. And they had a chance to tie it on the last possession.
2) Diamond Stone is still an unstoppable force inside and a card that Mark Turgeon can keep up his sleeve for when he needs it. Just as he did versus Penn State, Turgeon started Stone in the second half and he fueled the furious comeback, erasing a 13-point deficit to end up with a double-double of 22 points and 11 rebounds.
How much of a luxury must it be to have a five-star guy off your bench who can be thrown into the game whenever and completely change the momentum’s trajectory?
3) The reports of Jake Layman’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, Layman has endured criticism in the past for fading into the background offensively in big games. But he was the only thing keeping Maryland afloat in the first half today.
He was confident, strong on the glass, and active defensively. He finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. At the very least, Layman has progressed to the point where at the very least he earns a spot on the floor because his defense is a cornerstone for the team and he will attack the boards.
Some nights, you get this offensive alpha dog, too.
So look at it this way.
A number of things went wrong for Maryland on Tuesday night, some the result of playing a subpar game and some the result of the basic ebbs and flows of basketball.
Maryland falls to 15-2 over the past two seasons in games decided by six points or less.
Fifteen. And. Two.
And that comes in the second half of as close to a true road back-to-back as you’ll get in college basketball, only days after beating Wisconsin in Madison. The Terrapins were again on the road in Ann Arbor. They ran into a hot-shooting team and a wild crowd and they took a loss.
No. 1 Kansas lost on the road Tuesday night, too. North Carolina lost earlier in the year to Texas in Austin. It happens and Maryland will be just fine.