MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA — When the final buzzer sounded Thursday night, Terrapins men's basketball guard Rasheed Sulaimon was left hunched over underneath the basket with his hands on his thighs. Minnesota students streamed past him on either side, storming the court for their team's first conference win in 14 tries.
Sulaimon had done what he could. The graduate transfer poured in a career-best 28 points, willing the Terps back in the second half.
But after the No. 6 Terps' 68-63 loss to Minnesota, he was left on an island in the middle of another team's celebration.
A day earlier, Sulaimon said he had trouble sleeping after Saturday's 70-57 loss to Wisconsin. Now he's left trying to stomach the Terps' first back-to-back losses since they joined the Big Ten.
"This is the first real adversity we have," Sulaimon said. "Every team goes through it."
The Houston native didn't receive much help offensively, as forward Jake Layman finished second on the Terps (22-5, 10-4 Big Ten) with 11 points. Still, Sulaimon poured in 17 points after the break to help his team erase an 11-point halftime deficit.
His 3-pointer with 3:04 left gave the Terps their first lead since the first four minutes of the night. But he missed a jumper the next time down the floor and Minnesota sunk two free throws at the other end to take a 61-60 lead.
The Terps wouldn't lead again.
A key Minnesota (7-19, 1-13) offensive rebound with 53 seconds left paired with a guard Melo Trimble turnover on a fast break with 23 seconds left proved costly.
"At times I thought we were really poised," coach Mark Turgeon said. "And then a couple of them we weren't. We just weren't making the right decisions."
The Terps found themselves in an early hole in large part due to Minnesota's outside shooting. The Golden Gophers drilled six of their first eight attempts from the beyond the arc, many of which were uncontested.
And playing without center Diamond Stone (suspension), the offense seemed out of sorts. The Terps bobbled passes and took contested shots throughout the first half.
"We didn't come out ready to play," Layman said. "We definitely didn't take them lightly, but we just didn't play well in the first half."
With Stone unavailable, Turgeon was forced to use a series of unorthodox lineups, at one point playing guards Varun Ram, Jaylen Brantley, Trimble and Sulaimon together for more than two minutes.
And no matter what the fifth-year coach tried, the Terps never seemed to be able to get a foothold during the first half.
"Every timeout I kept waiting for us to lock in defensively, and we just never did it that first half," Turgeon said. "Second half after we made some adjustments we were much better."
After the break, the Terps held Minnesota to 6-for-30 shooting (20 percent). Turgeon has talked at length this season about the Terps defense translating to offense, and it seemed to do that.
Sulaimon caught fire from the floor, scoring eight straight during one stretch, as the Terps chipped away at Minnesota's lead. Then with 3:04 left, he gave the Terps an advantage when he swished a long ball.
He backpedaled toward the other end, raising three fingers on both hands toward the roof of the arena nicknamed "The Barn."
"We executed really well to come back and get the lead," Turgeon said.
But Sulaimon's heroics wouldn't last. He would miss his final four shots in addition to a free throw that would've allowed the Terps to tie the game with 36 seconds left.
So when the final buzzer sounded, Sulaimon was left alone. There were no teammates to embrace. There was just a sea of purple and gold flooding the court around him.
"When we needed it the most," Sulaimon said, "we had a lapse again."