After struggling for consistency, the Maryland basketball is one step closer to finding their groove, especially after their best performance all year against Ohio State. In a contest defined by suffocating defense, high flying dunks, and an early three-point barrage, Maryland provided the level of play expected during preseason. Having finished a three-game home stand, the Terps will head to Iowa City to try and earn their first win on the road this season.
Iowa is 10-5 on the season and sits in 12th place in the deep Big Ten. The Hawkeyes’ subpar standing can largely be attributed to the lack of offensive production outside of center Luka Garza. Furthermore, the Buckeyes have been crippled by a slew of injuries. Despite the mid-season woes, the Hawkeyes are still hopeful to earn an NCAA Tournament bid come March.
The two teams faced off once last year, in a close contest in Iowa City. Although the Terps blew an 11-point lead, a game-winning put back by Bruno Fernando, got them out of Iowa with a win.
This year’s matchup, although in the same venue, looks far different. While Maryland has improved, it will play an Iowa team that has largely regressed. Garza, though, is an enormous threat. The Washington, D.C. native averages an imposing 22 points and 10 rebounds in just 30 minutes per game — making him the leading scorer and second best rebounder in the Big Ten.
“[Garza] a tough guard,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “It’s gonna take our whole group to guard him.”
In the backcourt, guards Joe Wisekamp and Joe Toussaint carry the bulk of the offensive responsibility. Wisekamp earned All-Big Ten Freshman honors last year and has taken on a much bigger scoring role in the absence of the injured C.J. Fredrick. The sophomore averages 14 points at a modest 45% from the field.
“[Wisekamp] can shoot the three, he’s got a quick release, he’s great in transition, he’s also getting all the way to the rim,” said Turgeon. “We all gotta do a good job on him.”
Guard Joe Toussaint also has seen more minutes and delivered while shouldering more of the offensive load. In Iowa’s previous two games, Toussaint has averaged 16 points in 32 minutes per contest. The freshman also leads the team in steals.
Still, Iowa is home after taking two close losses against Big Ten opponents. Most recently, against Nebraska, the Hawkeyes shot a frigid 4-33 from three, and struggled to get anything else going on offense. Their poor shooting performance came mostly due to Fredrick’s injury, with the team’s best three-point shooter sidelined. With no timetable for his return, Maryland will have a lot less on their plate defensively.
Maryland has consistently shown their defensive acumen. While it will undoubtedly be important on Friday, Maryland’s offense will be crucial in putting the game away early. After three electric offensive displays, the Terps will need a fourth to roar out of Iowa City with an away win.