It has been over a month since Mark Turgeon stepped down as head coach of Maryland men’s basketball on Dec. 3. Danny Manning promptly stepped in as an interim head coach, but has yet to find success, going 0-4 in Big Ten play so far.
His first game as head coach came against Northwestern — less than 48 hours after he claimed the role. Despite a strong performance from guard Hakim Hart, who scored a game-high 18 points, the rest of the team shot an abysmal 20% from the field in a 67-61 loss to Northwestern.
A month has passed since then, and in front of another match against Northwestern at Evanston, the team believes they have changed for the better.
“As far as depth, we’re more together as a team since that Northwestern game,” said Hart.
Since then, Maryland has dealt with some of the toughest teams the conference has to offer, including a Kofi Cockburn led Illinois, No. 23 Wisconsin and a pacy Keegan Murray powered Iowa team. While Maryland has surprisingly held close in each affair, the Terps are still on a three-game losing streak.
“We don’t have the number of wins that we want,” Manning said. “But we also know that we’re two possessions, we’re three possessions here, we’re four possessions there from it being a different outcome.”
For Maryland, the key to getting on the right track is simple: minimize mistakes.
“You know, one good thing for me [and our staff] is I’m not seeing the same mistakes repeatedly over and over again,” Manning said. “That means we are growing and we are learning.”
Despite their slow start to the season — and their routine slow starts in games — the Terps are not losing hope. Maryland was in a similar situation the year before, starting conference play 1-5. Despite this, the team was able to regroup, winning eight of their last 14 Big Ten games, and go on to make a considerable splash in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament.
“We do have some guys that have been on this team that have kind of experienced this to a certain degree,” Manning said. “[They] can provide some leadership to our new guys.”
The rematch against Northwestern will serve as a testimony to how far the team has come since Manning first took over, for better or for worse. The players have seen change through team performance, but that has yet to produce a winning formula in the Big Ten.
“When we first started playing without Coach [Turgeon], it’s like a team without your leader. Everything sort of falls apart,” said forward Julian Reese. “And then we get a new leader. Everything’s starting to come together, really.”