Welcome to the early race for the Big Ten title, Michigan Wolverines.
Michigan stunned the No. 3-ranked Maryland Terrapins in Ann Arbor on Tuesday night, 70-67, and moved to 3-1 on the season in conference play as part of a crowded bunch behind the undefeated (in league play) Indiana Hoosiers and Iowa Hawkeyes.
Michigan Basketball noted it was the 12th win for head coach John Beilein over a Top 10 team during his tenure as the leader of the Wolverines. It also hasn't been too long since Michigan pulled off the feat:
Last top five win was only two years ago when U-M beat two No. 3 teams, Wisconsin and Michigan State within a week of each other. #GoBlue— Michigan Basketball (@umichbball) January 13, 2016
Perhaps the biggest story of the game was Michigan's ability to shut down Maryland superstar Melo Trimble. The National Player of the Year candidate managed a measly two points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field. He also committed four turnovers and never looked comfortable inside the flow of the offense.
Drew Hallett of SB Nation summarized the reaction nationally to the guard's performance:
Melo Trimble: 2 points (1-7 FG). Wow.— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) January 13, 2016
While Trimble struggled, Michigan point guard Derrick Walton Jr. made his impact felt on both ends of the floor and finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press commented on the difference between the two ball-handlers:
Derrick Walton has outplayed Melo Trimble tonight by a large margin.— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) January 13, 2016
Walton wasn't the only Wolverines guard who showed up Tuesday. Zak Irvin led all scorers with 22 points and drew this reaction from Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press:
Zak Irvin playing the game of his season... 22 points— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) January 13, 2016
Even Duncan Robinson got in on the action with 17 points, 15 of which came from his five made three-pointers. His performance was critical because star guard Caris LeVert is still dealing with a leg injury and missed the contest.
Robinson helped stake Michigan to a 37-29 lead at halftime, and ESPN CollegeBasketball pointed out the home team was in much better position than it was in its earlier chances to make a national statement this season:
Going into this game, Michigan is 0-3 vs. ranked teams and outscored by 18.3 PPG in those losses. So far, so good. pic.twitter.com/keBQ1ELbmW— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) January 13, 2016
The Terrapins climbed back into the game in the second half largely because of Diamond Stone, who finished with 22 points, and the combination of Jake Layman and Robert Carter, who combined for 33 points. Layman finished with a double-double and helped make up for the lackluster play from Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon, who tallied eight points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field.
Sulaimon at least made one highlight play in the second half as Maryland made a comeback, as ESPN CollegeBasketball shared:
Rasheed Sulaimon. 😳 Just wow. https://t.co/6ziirKcpPp— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) January 13, 2016
Despite the poor outing from the guards, the Terrapins had an opportunity to tie the contest on their final possession, but Sulaimon dribbled out some of the clock and clanked a long three-pointer. While Trimble had struggled throughout the game, he failed to touch the ball on that decisive possession a mere three days after he buried Wisconsin with a buzzer-beating three.
As a result, the Terrapins went home with their first Big Ten loss.
Doug Gottlieb of CBS Sports Radio pointed to the silver lining for Maryland:
Sulaimon and Trimble were bad tonight. Shows how good their defense/Layman/Stone were to nearly pull it out #Maryland— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) January 13, 2016
As for Michigan, this was a much-needed quality win if it plans on reaching the NCAA tournament this season. Matt Norlander of CBS Sports suggested as much:
Michigan beats No. 3 Maryland 70-67 and that’s going to be a big-time ace in the hole for the Wolverines come Selection Sunday.— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) January 13, 2016
The selection committee will not care that Trimble had arguably the worst offensive game of his career Tuesday when it looks back on Michigan's win. All that will matter is the mark in the victory column.
While Maryland was dealt its first conference loss Tuesday, it has the opportunity to jump right back into its typical winning ways with its upcoming schedule.
The Terrapins face a middling Ohio State team that already has six losses on the season Saturday and then plays the same Northwestern squad it beat 72-59 earlier in the season. The fact both contests are at home will also help Maryland before it takes the road to face the Michigan State Spartans in one of the Big Ten’s most anticipated contests of the campaign.
As for the victorious Wolverines, they have the chance to extend their momentum in the coming weeks. They face a difficult trip to No. 16 Iowa on Sunday but then play unranked Minnesota, Nebraska, Rutgers and Penn State before a back-to-back stretch of Indiana and Michigan State. Winning against the beatable opponents will be important as Selection Sunday approaches.
Michigan needs LeVert back to live up to its full potential, but the team that shut down Trimble on the defensive end Tuesday is capable of making plenty of noise in the Big Ten the rest of the way.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon was pleased with Sulaimon’s final shot at the end and was more willing to bemoan his team’s lack of rebounding, per the Associated Press, via USA Today: “We got a good look. We really did. Think about, if we just would have come up with the rebound before that and didn't have to foul him. But we didn't.”
Layman noted that the start was the problem for Maryland, per the Associated Press, via USA Today: “I think we gave them confidence in the first half. We let them get too many open threes. Second half I think we played a little better on defense, contested a lot more shots. But yeah, they hit some tough shots.”
Michigan’s ability to take away Maryland’s guards also played a major factor, and Beilein discussed his strategy, per the Associated Press, via USA Today: “We decided to just go with our regular action...and see if they could beat us with twos. And then they were really beating us with twos.”
Had Trimble played better, Maryland likely would have won, and Turgeon said his guard “'totally lost his rhythm' after picking up his second foul in the first half,” per Roman Stubbs of the Washington Post.
As long as Trimble finds his rhythm the rest of the way leading up to March, the Terrapins will be fine in the race for the Big Ten title.