Defense and consistency are key for Maryland men’s basketball as it hosts No. 14 Wisconsin

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Consistency has been a defining theme for Maryland (9-7, 3-6 B1G) this season. The Terps are coming off their most consistent performance of the season defeating then-No. 17 Minnesota 63-49 on the road catalyzed by suffocating defense.

Head coach Mark Turgeon and the Terps are well aware a similar defensive effort will be needed against the prolific Badgers offense.

“Our identity has to be defense for us to win,” Turgeon said. “Even if we have small lineups and we’re giving up a lot of size, pounds and inches.”

In the last meeting between the two teams on Dec. 28, Maryland put forth an impressive effort on both ends of the floor in a 70-64 road win over then-No. 6 Wisconsin. The Badgers (12-4, 6-3 B1G) are one of the most veteran-laden teams in the nation and like to run a variety of sets through the low post with talented bigs like Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers.

However, in the last matchup, Maryland’s paint defenders did a terrific job of fronting the Badgers interior presence on the block, which prevented them from setting up in good positions near the basket. While a lot of the responsibilities fall on guys like Donta Scott, Jairus Hamilton or Galin Smith down low, help defense from the guards and wings is pivotal as well.

“When we have a lot of effort, we’re really good on the defensive end and we’re always in the game,” Aaron Wiggins said. “If we’re locked in and we know our game plan, we’re guarding the way that we want to and we’re putting forth the effort to battle the bigs in the post. We’ll have a good chance to come out the way we want.”

Offensively for Maryland, one of the biggest points of emphasis will be taking advantage of individual matchups. Against Minnesota, Scott and Hamilton took advantage of their quickness advantage over 7-footer Liam Robbins. In Saturday’s win over Minnesota, both players spaced the floor, which created more opportunity for the guards to drive into the lane and kick out to open shooters when necessary.

In the last meeting at the Kohl Center in Madison, Scott shined as he showed off his offensive versatility and attacked Reuvers with his quickness advantage. Expect Maryland to often try and utilize high screen and rolls to extend the Badgers’ bigs out away from the basket. That extension will force them to guard in space on the perimeter. 

It’s in situations like this where Eric Ayala can use his speed to attack the basket or he can dish off to Scott or Hamilton who can spot up from the wing for a perimeter jumper. Ayala is coming off a 21-point performance against Minnesota, where he found success attacking the basket and using his creativity in the lane. That won’t be easy against Wisconsin’s backcourt tandem of Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice who are excellent on-ball defenders and known for their active hands.

While Trice is solid on the defensive end, the redshirt senior guard is more highly regarded for his offensive exploits as evidenced by his 25-point performance the last time these two teams met. Expect Darryl Morsell, Maryland’s best overall defender to sporadically match up on Trice throughout the game to give him some different looks defensively.

It won’t be easy against the Badgers, but Maryland has played some of its best basketball against ranked opponents this season. With a win, Maryland would have defeated ranked opponents in back-to-back games for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

Tip-off is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. and the game will air on BTN.

“We have to play well to win,” Turgeon said. That’s the bottom line. I think that’s what we’ve realized. I do think we’re getting closer to being more consistent.”

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