Maryland was the bigger, faster and more talented than mid-major Hawaii for just three minutes on Sunday.
And three minutes was all it took.
The Terrapins survived Hawaii, 73-60, and advanced to the NCAA tournament’s Louisville Regional thanks to a 14-0 run keyed by Terrapins guard Rasheed Sulaimon.
Sulaimon, who was dismissed from the Duke program last season amid sexual assault allegations, began the run by rebounding a blocked shot and driving the length of the court for a layup to tie the game at 41-41.
On the Maryland next possession, Sulaimon found massive center Diamond Stone rolling to the rim for a dunk, and seconds later he stole the ball from Hawaii’s Quincy Smith before hitting Jake Layman for another dunk.
“I told the guys before the tournament started, I said, ‘we’re going to have a game where we can’t make a shot, and we got to defend,’ ” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “And we did that tonight. We defended, and we finally rebounded a little bit better during that stretch when we took the lead.”
The Rainbow Warriors (28-6), who set a school record for wins in addition to recording the program’s first ever NCAA tournament win – over fourth-seeded California on Friday – were suddenly rattled.
Hawaii went 10:36 without making a field goal, and its full-court press, while aggressive, couldn’t generate turnovers against Maryland’s heady guards. Other than Mike Thomas, Hawaii’s starters shot just 13 of 50 (26 percent).
“I’ll give credit to Maryland’s defense. It was tough, but we didn’t make shots that we were supposed to make,” Stefan Jankovic said. “We missed a lot of layups, a lot of easy put-backs, we didn’t make shots.”
Before Sulaimon ignited the Terrapins’ transition offense, the teams had traded blows and Maryland had not led by more than four points. The Rainbow Warriors led the game’s early minutes, including a 13-6 advantage with 11:05 left in the first half, thanks largely to the hustle of Thomas, who finished the game with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
After Layman’s dunk, the Rainbow Warriors missed a layup, which led to a 3-pointer in transition for Melo Trimble, which was the Terps’ first made shot from behind the arc in 16 attempts.
That shot would be the only made 3-pointer for the Terrapins – who finished 1 of 18 – but they made up for their cold shooting with consistency at the free throw line. Maryland made 28 of 31 free throw attempts, and Trimble, who led all scorers with 24 points, made 13 of 14.
With the win, Maryland (27-8) earns a shot against the tournament’s top overall seed, Kansas, next week in Louisville, Kentucky. The Terrapins began the year ranked No. 3 overall in the preseason AP poll, but lost 5 of 8 games in the middle of the season, finishing in a five-way tie for third-place in the Big Ten.