Maryland men’s basketball heads to Bloomington for a new defensive challenge

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

After two impressive offensive showings against ranked opponents, the essence of Maryland basketball will be tested early in 2021. With Darryl Morsell’s facial injury against Michigan on Dec. 31 and a slew of ranked opponents ahead, whether or not the Terps will remain even-keeled is unclear. 

But what is clear is Maryland’s ability to bounce back from tough losses. Maryland (6-4, 1-3 B1G) wasn’t exactly fit to win against the undefeated Wolverines on New Year’s Eve. However, Indiana (6-4, 1-2 B1G), brings a more manageable level of basketball. 

The Hoosiers, along with Maryland, are one of the six unranked teams in the Big Ten and the two sides boast a similar record. Both teams also have been struggling for consistency in their respective Big Ten slates. For Indiana, its offense has seemingly been carried by the likes of forward Trayce Jackson-Davis and guard Armaan Franklin. The two sophomores combine for 33 points per contest along with 12 boards. 

Jackson-Davis accounts for 20 points per game and has quietly been dominating in an uber-competitive Big Ten. His frontcourt supremacy is mainly special because of his traditional approach. The sophomore forward is the only 20-point scorer in the league who doesn’t shoot threes.

Jackson-Davis, another name on a long list of dominant Big Ten bigs, will be a huge test for Maryland’s poor frontcourt defense. After (literally) falling short in the low post battle against Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson, Maryland will surely be looking to mitigate their defensive frontcourt shortcomings against Indiana’s potent back to the basket scorer. 

“Defensively, we just got to get better in our zones, we got to get better on our post defense,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We got to get better in our ball pressure. We got to get better in our rotations.”

Jackson-Davis’ reluctance to stretch the floor may be part of the reason the Hoosiers are one of the easier teams to guard in the Big Ten, but his offensive style of play coupled with his stout defense has kept the Hoosiers over .500. 

With the absence of Morsell, it’s also possible Indiana’s otherwise forgettable backcourt could bring some serious problems for Maryland. Franklin has been the heavy hitter for the Hoosiers backcourt offense as of late, averaging 13 points per game. 

But veteran guards like Al Durham and Rob Phinisee are proven offensive threats capable of scoring inside and out. The leadership and defensive presence of Morsell will be missed. So it’ll be in Maryland’s best interest to recapture the energy that Morsell brings on defense in order to really contain Indiana’s offense.   

“[Darryl Morsell is telling us] just to play hard each possession, every possession, that’s how we’re gonna win games,” sophomore guard Hakim Hart said. “If we’re going with his mindset we’ll be fine.”

When the offense is performing at a high level, Maryland is a force to be reckoned with — just ask Michigan. But to even hold a candle against the best teams in the league, the Terps defense needs to perform well too. Indiana is a good place to start. 

“We’re not that far off,” Turgeon said. “We just gotta keep plugging and keep trying to get better.” 

Tip off is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. and the game will air on BTN.

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