Maryland broke a five-year drought by getting back to the NCAA tournament this year. It won’t have to wait nearly as long to play its next tournament game.
Behind a huge second half from Melo Trimble, No. 4 Maryland held off a real challenge from No. 13 Valparaiso, the champions of the Horizon League, winning 65-62. The Terrapins will meet No. 5 West Virginia in a Round of 32 matchup in the Midwest Region on Sunday.
The Crusaders didn’t make it easy on the Terrapins. Valparaiso, which hadn’t won a tournament game since its now coach Bryce Drew hit one of the most famous shots in recent NCAA tourney history, stayed within eight points for the entire second half and was within one point with less than two minutes left. After getting within a point, the Crusaders were a defensive rebound away from getting a possession to take the lead. Senior Dez Wells came up with the biggest board of the game, skying above bigger plays to secure the ball, then going right back up and converting a layup while getting fouled.
Valpo never had the ball with a chance to take the lead, but they did have one chance to tie the game in the waning seconds. With 13.7 seconds left, the Crusaders had the ball trailing by three. Drew diagramed a play to get Alec Peters, the team’s leading scorer and best shooter, a look from behind the arc, but Maryland switched every screen and denied him the ball. At that point, the ball remained in the hands of point guard Keith Carter, but Maryland walk-on Varun Ram, whom Mark Turgeon had just inserted for the first time all game, stripped Carter as he elevated to attempt what would have been a potential game-tying three, sealing the win for the Terrapins.
Trimble finished the night with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Wells had 14 points, as well. Jared Nickens carried the offense in the first half, making three triples and leading the team with 12 points in the first stanza. On the other side, the sophomore Peters had 18 points on 6-for-13 from the floor, but it wasn’t enough.