By The Sports Xchange
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — It has been a bumpy season for Akeem Springs, the redshirt senior guard for Minnesota.
The Illinois native entered Wednesday averaging less than 10 points per game, but once again he came through big against No. 24 Maryland.
Springs, who made just his 10th start, had 16 points in just 18 minutes of play while making six of nine shots from the field as the Gophers upset No. 24 Maryland 89-75. Springs had 23 points against Maryland last month.
“Akeem was terrific as well,” said Richard Pitino, the Minnesota head coach. “A great win for us, obviously. We have so much respect for coach (Mark) Turgeon and that team. Playing in this building is very challenging. It is a testament to our guys’ mental toughness. I get more and more proud every game. They just want to win. We were terrific in the second half. We will celebrate tonight and move on.”
Pitino implied that the Gophers, who have won six in a row, have locked up an NCAA tournament berth.
“We are a good team. We have to accept it. We are,” Pitino said. “We can put the tournament talk to bed. We have a lot of quality wins. We have had a tough schedule. We have some really, really good wins.”
The Terps bench was hit with a technical with 4:32 left to play as the Gophers began to pull away from Maryland, which shot 62 percent from the field and had no blocks while Minnesota swatted away eight shots.
The Gophers hit 50 percent of their shots from the field and 17 of 20 free throws. Minnesota won despite having just eight assists while Maryland had 22.
“They were phenomenal,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said of Minnesota. “Their guards were great. (Jordan) Murphy was terrific. The credit has to go to them. We were not good enough defensively. We could not guard them.”
Springs had a season-high 23 points against Maryland in a loss at home last month to the Terps. Dupree McBrayer came off the bench and had 14 of his 18 points in the second half as the Gophers won their sixth game in row and first ever in College Park in four tries.
“A good resume win,” McBrayer said.
Junior guard Nate Mason added 17 points for the Gophers, Jordan Murphy had 15 and Amir Coffey had 13.
The Gophers (21-7, 9-6) won for the first time in four games at Maryland.
The cold-shooting Terps (22-6, 10-5) were paced by reserve Ivan Bender, who had 12 of his 15 points in the first half while freshman Anthony Cowan and junior guard Melo Trimble added 11.
Maryland just shot 26 from 3-point distance and 62 percent from the foul line. But Maryland could not contend with Mason and Springs.
Mason made a 3-pointer as the Gophers took a 44-42 lead with 16:52 left in the game.
Damonte Dodd made a basket and free throw for Maryland as the Terps took a lead of 52-50 with 13:54 left to play.
But McBrayer had two straight baskets as the Gophers took a 57-53 lead with 11:21 left.
Minnesota forward Murphy had a dunk with 7:57 left to give the Gophers a lead of 65-60.
McBrayer hit a 3-pointer to cap a 9-0 run as Minnesota took a 70-60 lead with 6:24 left.
Murphy made another basket as the Gophers made it 74-62 with 3:34 left.
Minnesota, the most improved team in the nation, now have five road wins in the conference this season.
The Gophers led 17-11 on a basket by Mason with 12:05 left in the first half.
Maryland went on a 10-0 run to take a 21-17 lead on a basket by Dodd with 8:37 left.
Minnesota had its own 10-0 run to take a 27-21 lead with 6:30 left in the first half as Mason connected on a 3-pointer.
Bender had two straight dunks to give the Terps an edge of 33-29 with 1:10 left in the first stanza.
Maryland led 35-34 at halftime as Trimble had five assists and the Terps had 12 assists on 16 made baskets. Maryland won the battle of the boards 42-36 but lost its second in a row.
“We are becoming a better rebounding team,” Turgeon said. “We did a lot of nice things offensively. We were not good enough down the stretch. I will take the blame for that.”