Suffering back-to-back losses against then-No. 16 Michigan and Indiana, the Terps (6-5, 1-4 B1G) are searching for a bounce back performance against No. 5 Iowa (9-2, 3-1 B1G). The Hawkeyes are the highest ranked Big Ten team in the most recent AP Poll and also are one of the highest scoring teams in the country, averaging 92.7 points per game.
Offensively, the Hawkeyes play through their senior center Luka Garza, who averages 27.5 points per game and has developed into not only one of the best players in the Big Ten, but also nationally. Garza can beat defenses in a variety of ways. He can spot up from the perimeter, or use his creativity and savviness down low for crafty finishes in the paint.
“The thing that makes [Luka Garza] really good is he’s got really good players around him,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “He’s terrific, he’s just so physical and keeps his body on you and he’s so good around the basket. The pick and pop is really hard to guard also.”
While Garza justifiably gets a lot of the attention, the Hawkeyes feature a potent backcourt trio of CJ Fredrick, Jordan Bohannon and Joe Wieskamp. All three guards and Garza shoot 35% or greater from behind the arc. Garza’s explosiveness at multiple levels complemented by the backcourt’s shooting prowess makes Iowa one of the toughest teams in the country to defend.
Fortunately for Maryland, senior Darryl Morsell is expected to return after suffering a facial fracture on Dec. 31 against Michigan. After receiving clearance from the doctors, Morsell will be wearing a mask on the court to protect his face.
Morsell’s absence against Indiana was sorely missed, as the senior is Maryland’s vocal leader on the court and the Terps best overall defender. Most importantly, Morsell offers tremendous defensive versatility as he’s able to guard all five positions, a luxury for Turgeon.
“Yeah, I mean [Darryl returning] gives us a huge boost,” junior Aaron Wiggins said. “I was really surprised that he’d be able to play tomorrow, but I’m super happy because he’s a crucial part of our team. We need his energy; we need his playmaking ability. Everything he brings to the game.”
However, Maryland’s biggest key against Iowa will be rejuvenating it’s halfcourt offense, which faltered against Indiana on Monday. Against the Hoosiers, the Terps managed just 55 points, including an over six-minute stretch in the second half when they went without a point.
A prolonged scoring drought against any team poses an issue. Although, an extended scoring drought against the Hawkeyes could prove far more consequential with their prolific offense.
One of the biggest keys for Maryland offensively will be increasing its ball and body movement. As Turgeon has emphasized all season, the Terps are toughest to guard when the ball is moving from side-to-side forcing opposing defenses to rotate quickly and make quick decisions.
In addition to fast ball movement, another key for Maryland is the frontcourt duo of Donta Scott and Jairus Hamilton providing a spark. The talented frontcourt duo has combined for 20 points or more in five of Maryland’s six wins this season, diversifying the Terps’ offensive attack. A similar offensive approach could prove beneficial against the Hawkeyes.
With Maryland lacking size down low, both players could match up against Garza throughout the game. When matched up against Garza, both Hamilton and Scott should look to exploit the mismatch and attack the 6-foot-11 big man trying to put him in foul trouble.
Maryland will need a complete 40 minutes on both ends of the floor to take down the Hawkeyes. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will air on ESPN2.