COLLEGE PARK — At the start of the Big Ten season, the Michigan men’s basketball team put an emphasis on the final eight minutes of every game. It was finishing, the Wolverines said then, that would be the difference for them.
Saturday, two months and nearly an entire Big Ten season later, they found themselves in just the right position to make a late run at an upset of No. 14 Maryland. Junior guard Spike Albrecht hit a 3-pointer with 8:40 remaining, cutting the Terrapins’ lead to 43-40 and setting Michigan up for a rally.
But Maryland wasn’t having it. Melo Trimble, the Terrapins’ star freshman, responded the same way his team did every time the Wolverines tried to generate momentum — with a smooth 3-pointer. And when sophomore forward Zak Irvin hit a jumper on Michigan’s next possession, Trimble hit another dagger.
The Terrapins withstood all the Wolverines’ efforts and responded with hot shooting beyond the arc, burying any chance for a comeback in what ended as a 66-56 Maryland victory.
“It was definitely frustrating,” Irvin said. “Late, when we went to our three zone, they were able to hit big time 3s. We were down six, and they (stretched it) to 12, and it was hard for us.
“For the majority of the game I thought we played great team defense. Just late they were able to make tough shots and they got some open 3s out of kick outs and in transition.”
Michigan shot just 5-for-21 from long range, uncharacteristic for a Beilein-coached team. But that might’ve still been salvageable had Maryland not posted a lights-out, 11-for-22 showing beyond the arc.
Trimble, who shot 3-for-4 from deep, and Jared Nickens, who was 3-for-5, were the proverbial stoppers for Maryland, preventing the Wolverines from clawing back into the game Saturday as they had done so many times before.
When freshman guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman threw down a vicious dunk four minutes into the second half, bringing the Wolverines within four, Nickens answered with a 3-pointer two possessions later. When Michigan made a last-ditch effort in the last four minutes, Dez Wells knocked one down.
All game long, the 3-pointer was going to decide the outcome — and the Terrapins’ 50 percent mark compared to the Wolverines’ 36 percent made that decision easy.
“You have to respect (Maryland), there is a reason they have 24 wins,” Beilein said. “They see the floor well, they have a great guard, and they have shot makers around.”
It wasn’t as if Michigan wasn’t able to find looks from the perimeter. Albrecht was able to get open regularly, and he was even on target. But the junior’s shots kept rimming out, circling the cylinder before falling into the waiting hands of a Terrapin.
“Don’t remind me,” Albrecht said after the game. “I was frustrated out there having shots go in and out like that.
“You look at the final score … just think, a few of those shots go down, it’s a one- or two-possession game.”
Even with a 10-point final margin, much like Albrecht’s rim-outs, Michigan’s entire second half seemed to be just a slight tilt away from changing the game completely.
“We’ve gotta make shots,” Beilein said. “It’s one of the staples of what we do. We have to shoot the ball well, usually, to win.”