Maryland basketball hopes its defense will return at Wisconsin

Prior to Maryland basketball’s loss at Iowa, head coach Mark Turgeon expressed his faith in the Terps’ defense, despite their prior struggles on the road. Yet his hopes were soon vanquished as the Terps fell short, losing their third straight road game in a contest where their defense was largely absent. 

“We weren’t ourselves in that game, I didn’t recognize [the team],” said Turgeon.

Following its jarring 18-point loss, Maryland slid in the rankings. Once regarded as a top three team, the Terps have slid all the way to No. 17. But Maryland has another chance to prove itself on the road, this time against Wisconsin in Madison. 

The Badgers are 10-6 on the season, and tied for third in the big 10. Wisconsin has been plagued by streaky shooting, accounting for a number of its losses. The Badgers also struggle to rebound the ball as a team — they rank dead last in the Big Ten with 34.6 rebounds per game. 

Despite its faults, Wisconsin has proved its worth on numerous occasions. The Badgers beat Indiana by 20 to open Big Ten play, sending a strong statement. They also beat both Ohio State and Penn State on the road — accounting for two of only five away wins from away teams in the Big Ten.

“They got some guys who can shoot 1-5,” said Darryl Morsell. “They got great depth, they got guys who can come off the bench and really score for them.”  

Wisconsin and Maryland met twice last season, splitting the season series 1-1 — with the home team winning both contests. Maryland led for the majority of both games, closing out a win at the Xfinity Center, but succumbing to a late Wisconsin surge away from home. 

Much like Maryland, Wisconsin has lost production due to the departure of a crucial big man. Centers Ethan Happ and Bruno Fernando were regarded as two of the best big men in the conference last year, but have since left for greener pastures. 

In Happ’s stead, forward Nate Reuvers has taken on the bulk of the scoring load. He also anchors the Badgers’ defense, providing 2.1 blocks — good for sixth in the conference.

The Badgers aren’t as formidable in the backcourt. Bryce Davidson and D’Mitrik Trice have had their standout games, but are notably inconsistent. Davison is a solid perimeter defender and rebounder for his position, grabbing four rebounds and a steal per game. Trice is an offensive talent, and has shown the ability to score with the best in the conference, tallying 31 points against Milwaukee. Still, neither has strung together multiple strong games.

Despite all of its inconsistencies, Wisconsin is coming off a big win against at Penn State — where the Badgers held the home team to a season-low 49 points. Therein lies Wisconsin’s biggest strength, as the Badgers allow only 60 points per game — good enough for 20th in the nation. 

For Maryland, a team that struggles offensively on the road, the Badgers defense may be a recipe for disaster. Thus, not for the first time, Maryland will likely turn to its defense to keep it in the game. If it shows up, the Terps have a real chance of snagging their first road win of the year.  

“I think we’ve gotten better,” said Turgeon, “it’s just when the ball goes up and the lights come on tomorrow night, are we gonna handle it.”