Maryland men’s basketball searches for first conference win at No. 6 Wisconsin

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

The start of conference play has been tough for the Terps (5-3, 0-2 B1G) with consecutive losses to then-No. 19 Rutgers and Purdue. However, Maryland has a chance to reverse its fortunes with a bounceback performance against Wisconsin (8-1, 2-0 B1G) Monday night.

Wisconsin is one of the most veteran teams in the nation led by four seniors, who are also the team’s four leading scorers. The guard tandem of D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison spearhead the backcourt attack, while the duo of Nate Ruevers and Micah Potter pace the Badgers balanced frontcourt. 

All four players shoot better than 40% from behind the arc, an area which Maryland has struggled in recent games. In the Terps’ last two games, both La Salle and Purdue shot 45% or greater from behind the arc. Against the Badgers, Maryland’s defenders will need to do a better job of closing out on perimeter shot attempts to limit Wisconsin’s lethal outside shooting attack.

“We gave up three threes in transition, just laziness, not rotating quick enough to shooters,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We know [Wisconsin] can really shoot it, hopefully we’ll be a little bit better in transition defense. Hopefully we’ll be a little better of getting out to shooters.”

While the Badgers have a potent outside shooting attack, Ruevers and Potter also are effective in the low post. Maryland’s low-post defense was a strength against Purdue, which had great size down low with Trevion Williams and Zach Edey. Sophomore center Chol Marial played his best minutes as a Terp against the Boilermakers and will look to build on that against Wisconsin. 

He’s the only Terp who’s seven feet or taller and could be relied on heavily as Maryland’s biggest threat to alter or block the Badgers’ interior shot attempts. However, Marial isn’t solely responsible for rim protection down low. Both Galin Smith and Donta Scott will be relied upon extensively because Marial hasn’t played more than 17 minutes in a game this season.

Despite the loss against Purdue, Maryland’s halfcourt offense in the second half was much more effective. Much of that effectiveness can be attributed to the fact that the Terps were moving the ball side-to-side on offense and were less stagnant. On many possessions in the first half against Purdue, the Terps over dribbled and didn’t kick out to open shooters when necessary.

“My whole thing with this year’s team is just moving the ball,” Turgeon said. “Sometimes we hold [the ball] too much and when we move it we’re hard to guard, especially when we’re in that smaller lineup.”

In addition to ball movement, one of the elements that made Maryland’s second-half offense more effective was Scott’s versatility. Throughout this season, Scott has shown the propensity to knock down pick and pop threes. However, against the Boilermakers, Scott was attacking his defenders off of the dribble, using his combination of speed and strength for tough finishes inside. 

His versatility adds another dimension to Maryland’s offensive attack that makes the Terps more challenging to guard. In addition to Scott, fellow forward Jairus Hamilton showed his ability to knock down spot up perimeter jumpers, which could force defenders to over extend and leave openings on the interior. 

Maryland will need a complete 40-minute effort against the Badgers and can’t afford the stagnation that plagued its offense in the first-half against Purdue. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will air on FS1.

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