Maryland men’s basketball looks to establish consistency as it hosts Minnesota

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

At The Barn against then-No. 17 Minnesota on Jan. 23, Maryland (10-10, 4-9 B1G) played 40 minutes of suffocating defense, something the Terps will look to replicate on Sunday night and beyond. 

The Terps held Minnesota (13-7, 6-7 B1G) to a season-low 49 points, just 30.4% from the field overall and 21.7% from three. Looking to avoid dropping below .500 for the first time this season, Maryland will need a strong defensive effort.

“In order to have a great defensive effort it’s not just one person, everybody on the team got to be on one accord, one string,” Darryl Morsell said. “Got to have that aggressive mindset, I think we had that at [Minnesota] and tomorrow we’re going to have come out with that same mindset.”

For Maryland, locking in defensively is more significant now than ever as its offense has let the team down in recent games. Both of the team’s most recent losses have been defined by prolonged scoring droughts, including Monday’s loss against No. 4 Ohio State where the Terps managed just two points and no field goals the first 7:12 of the second half.

Everything for Minnesota offensively starts with guard Marcus Carr, who’s the team’s leading scorer, averaging 19.9 points per game. Carr scored 25 points in the last meeting between the two teams and has consistently displayed the ability to score at all three levels. 

While Carr provides a dynamic presence in the backcourt, Liam Robbins is the Golden Gophers’ anchor down low. The transfer from Drake can stretch the floor and shoot from three. However, in the last meeting he struggled mightily as the junior big man battled foul trouble playing just 22 minutes and scoring a meager six points. 

“Defensively, you have to finish every possession with a rebound,” Morsell said. “It’s not over until you get the ball.”

In addition to locking in defensively, Maryland has made a concerted effort to preach positivity and improved body language in practice this week. Those extended scoring droughts can be frustrating, but head coach Mark Turgeon and his staff have placed an emphasis on playing with the necessary body language and confidence to succeed. That positive attitude and energy can be contagious throughout the team.

“We’ve really talked about body language, positive energy, being confident, coaches, managers, players, trainers, everybody,” Turgeon said.

Another key for Maryland will be improved frontcourt play from the tandem of Donta Scott and Jairus Hamilton. Scott has struggled protecting the ball with a combined eight turnovers in his last two games, while Hamilton is coming off an 0-6 shooting night against the Buckeyes, including 0-3 from three.

Scott’s versatility to pop off high screen and rolls, plus the ability to attack his matchups off the dribble has been when the sophomore big has been the most effective this season. Despite his recent shooting struggles, Hamilton has shown the propensity to knock down spot-up threes this season, which would be a massive lift for the Terps offensively.

Consistent ball and body movement remains paramount for the Terps as those aforementioned scoring droughts have also been defined by spurts of stagnation in addition to missed shots. Particularly when utilizing the four-guard lineup, side-to-side ball movement will be pivotal to keep the defense rotating, especially when all five guys on the floor can shoot from three.

Sunday night begins the Terps’ final seven regular season games, six of which are against unranked opponents, a reprieve from Maryland’s grueling start to its conference schedule. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. and the game will air on FS1.

“We’ve got to play better than we’ve been playing, we’ll approach it one [game] at a time,” Turgeon said.