Between a recent assistant coach suspension, a head coach departure and growing pains on the court, Maryland men’s basketball has endured an unusually tumultuous season. But interim head coach Danny Manning wants the team to remain focused on the game and its simplest parts.
“For us it’s one possession at a time,” Manning said . “Try to win that possession then you move on to the next play.”
Since taking over as head coach, Manning has notably emphasized the importance of each possession.
“I don’t care if it’s 40 minutes, 30 minutes, [or] whatever, if you’re out there playing, you should be playing until you push yourself to that point,” Manning said. “Then, you ask for a break, and then you come out.”
In every game Manning has led, the Terps seemingly began to take heed of Manning’s advice, building momentum and playing competitive basketball for long stretches. It culminated in Maryland’s first Big Ten win after five tries.
The Terps approached their rematch against Northwestern incrementally, possession by possession.
It might have taken longer than they had hoped, but Maryland slid into the league’s winning column after two overtimes. In the double-overtime thriller, Eric Ayala’s 26 points and 11 rebounds led the team and Fatts Russell’s 13 points in the extra periods pushed the team past the finish line against the Wildcats.
“It was my first double-overtime game in college,” Ayala said after the match. “I’m tired.”
After a few days’ rest, Manning expects the team to fully compete against Rutgers and continue the trend of pacy but focused basketball.
“They’re young,” Manning said of his roster. “It would be different if they were my age and they were trying to come back and play a game, but they’re going to bounce back. They’ll be okay.”
For their next match against Rutgers, Maryland will need to prepare for forward Ron Harper Jr., who leads the team in scoring. Against Harper guard Geo Baker and the rest of the Scarlet Knights gritty squad, Maryland will have to continue their streak of competitive play. And they must work every possession, to translate their resolve to victories.