NEW YORK — For the fifth straight game, UConn found themselves in a situation where they were playing from behind. It was something the Huskies knew they couldn’t let happen if they wanted to have a chance against No. 6 Maryland on Tuesday night.
But Tuesday was an all too familiar script. The Huskies found themselves down by as many as 20 points to the Terrapins in the first half. They trailed by 15 points with less than eight minutes to go.
But the Huskies fought back like they have all season, cutting Maryland’s lead to three points. But once again, they came up just short.
Maryland defeated the Huskies 76-66 in front of 19,812 at Madison Square Garden as part of the 2015 Jimmy V Classic.
“Once again, getting down by 20 really hurt us,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said.
Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year Melo Trimble scored 25 points to lead Maryland. Diamond Stone, who committed to Maryland last March over UConn and other schools, scored 16 points off the bench and grabbed nine rebounds.
Trailing by double digits nearly the entire game, the Huskies made their run in the second half.
UConn cut the lead to 39-48 with 13:17 left after Sterling Gibbs scored five quick points. After Maryland stretched the lead back up to 16, the Huskies were able to once again get the Terps’ lead to single digits with 4:45 left.
Rodney Purvis made a three to cut it to six. Daniel Hamilton made a three on the next possession, capping a 13-2 run, to cut the lead to three with 2:49 left. UConn (5-3) had all the momentum.
But just as fast as the momentum switched, it dissipated even quicker. After Hamilton’s three-pointer, Ollie was called for a technical foul after the refs called a foul on Jalen Adams, which caused Ollie to toss the papers on the scorer’s table onto the court.
“They made a run at us. The technical definitely helped, there’s no doubt about it,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said.
After the technical foul Maryland went on a 9-2 run to end the game.
“We just played with poise,” Trimble said. “Coach Turgeon was preaching that throughout every media timeout and the timeouts we took and we went out there and executed plays and we pulled the game out.”
Hamilton scored the first points of the game for either team on UConn’s opening possession. It was UConn’s only lead of the game.
Maryland (8-1) scored seven straight points to take an early 7-2 lead. UConn’s next basket didn’t come until after the first media timeout, a scoring drought that lasted 4 minutes and 13 seconds.
“I liked that we started the game well in a big time environment,” Turgeon said. “Our guys were playing with poise. We were great defensively.”
At one point early in the first half, Maryland had more free throws (eight) than UConn had points (six). Stone and Trimble combined for 22 of Maryland’s first 29 points.
The Huskies had no answer for Stone in the post, as the freshman scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half.
“Diamond played well,” Ollie said. “He played aggressive. He loved the moment. They did a good job highlighting him, getting him some post ups and then he was getting to the basket.”
The Terrapins stretched their lead to double digits for the first time after Robert Carter made a jump shot that made the score 15-4. The lead would balloon to 34-14 after Jared Nickens made a three-pointer. By the half, Maryland led 38-22.
UConn shot 30 percent in the first half, while Maryland shot 40 percent.
Like they did against Syracuse and Gonzaga during the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving break, the Huskies battled back.
Hamilton scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half and Purvis added 10 in the second to lead the UConn comeback.
“I just had to take my time,” Hamilton said. “In the first half I think I was rushing a little bit, just trying to get in the lane and just trying to make a play. I think I was just rushing it. In the second half I think I just took my time and just let it come to me a little bit and I got going.”
But as the Huskies were making their comeback, the Terps leaned on their best player to seal the game; and Trimble delivered with five free throws after Ollie’s technical foul.
“Melo controlled the whole game,” Ollie said.
Trimble was 14 of 15 from the free-throw line for the game. UConn only attempted 12 as a team.