December 2019 was an eventful month for Maryland basketball. Back-to-back losses, the departure of the Mitchell twins, and the much awaited debut of seven-foot freshman, Chol Marial, defined the final act of the decade for Maryland. January 2020 projects to be similarly hectic, as non-conference play has concluded and the Terps have a much more difficult schedule ahead.
Maryland’s second opponent of the Big Ten slate is Indiana, which has faced significant challenges of its own. The Hoosiers’ past four matchups have been decided by seven points or less. Indiana has spent much of December playing in hard fought games that were often decided in the closing minutes. Despite the fact that the Hoosiers have started the season at 11-2, few wins have come easily due to their struggles in creating shots and run a consistent offense.
Last year’s matchup between the two teams was a close one. The Terps got a combined 49 points from Anthony Cowan Jr. and Bruno Fernando, with the duo posting one of their most impressive performances of the season. Although Indiana started brightly, Maryland’s 51 second-half points allowed them to claw past the Hoosiers and win by three.
This year, the Hoosiers have revamped their squad. They boast a formidable front court, featuring freshman standout Trayce Jackson-Davis, who leads the team in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. Alongside him, Justin Smith serves as an athletic, two-way wing who can be a spark plug on either end of the court.
“They’re big and strong and they’re smart,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “Hopefully our post players will be ready to take on a challenge.”
Jackson-Davis, who converts 66% of his shots — good for 7th in the nation — is the major reason why the Hoosiers are an extremely efficient team down low. But they have not been as lucky from the perimeter, ranking 11th in the Big Ten from behind the arc.
Much like Maryland, the Hoosiers have struggled throughout the season to find an offensive identity. Relying on big shots from their best players down the stretch is something both teams have in common. With two teams that depend on their stout defense to create offense, the winner may be decided on who turns the ball over the least.
“We’ve got to have a great interior presence on offense and defense … withstand their bigs, and stay out of foul trouble,” said center Jalen Smith.