Three Takeaways from Maryland’s failed comeback against No. 14 Wisconsin

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

It took a timely late-game collapse by the Badgers to allow the Terps to sneak past Wisconsin back in December. On Wednesday, Wisconsin made few mistakes and almost never let up, so this time around, the Terps weren’t afforded the same fortunes. Instead, the Badgers put on a clinic — on both sides of the ball — to split the season series with a 61-55 victory at the XFINITY Center.

Nothing got going for as long as it needed to for Maryland (9-8, 3-7 B1G) in its 8th loss of the season. And after looking like it was on it’s way to being a true defensive threat, it took several steps back with a defeat to Wisconsin (13-4, 7-3 B1G) . 

“When we made a mistake they made us pay,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “And when they made a mistake we didn’t necessarily make the shots. 

An inconsequential tale of two halves 

Things got ugly early for Maryland. The Terps offense stalled for the entirety of the first half and were deservedly punished on the opposite end of the court. Seven made field goals and a 2-for-14 mark from beyond the arc was enough to give Maryland 20 points in the first half. 

But it’s groggy defense, influenced greatly by its inability to make shots with consistency, allowed 38 points spearheaded by an 11-point effort from Micah Potter. The Badgers were efficient too, shooting 46% from the field and from three.

“I thought we missed a couple open shots that maybe could have changed some things – the whole flow of the game,” Turgeon said. “We let our offense affect our defense a little bit.”

Roles reversed, albeit briefly, in the final half as Maryland jumped out on a 17-5 run to trim Wisconsin’s considerable lead to just three points. Down 43-40 with 11 minutes remaining in the game, it was clear the comeback effort needed to hit a new gear, but the Terps had nothing left to give. They went quiet for four minutes as the Badgers pushed back to reclaim their double-digit lead and halt whatever comeback effort the Terps had in reach. 

Maryland against Big Ten opponents at home 

With their loss against Wisconsin, the Terps are now 0-4 against Big Ten opponents at home.  Maryland didn’t fall at home last season until late February and decisively won every home game up to that point. This is obviously a far cry from last year’s Terps team and much of it can be attributed to the absence of fans this season. Even so, the Terps have looked more out of place at XFINITY than they ever have. 

Against non-conference opponents at home, the Terps look vibrant, unfaltering and especially competitive — very similar to how they play against Top 20 opponents on the road (not named Michigan.) 

But the brand of Maryland basketball on display at home is at best a microcosm of its season — inconsistent. Against Michigan, Iowa, Rutgers and now Wisconsin, the Terps played sequences of commanding Maryland basketball, but in each game they failed to hold for a period long enough to translate to a win. 

No Answers for Micah Potter 

Wisconsin’s revenge match was carried on the back of Potter. After posting just four points in the two sides first meeting, the senior forward went off for 23. He converted three three-point plays and drained four triples in just 23 minutes and was quite efficient while doing so, missing four of his 12 shots.

This performance, of course, came after a stymying small ball defense that held Minnesota’s Liam Robbins to just 6 points — someone Turgeon recognized plays similarly to Potter. With Donta Scott at the five, it felt like the Terps had their small ball identity somewhat figured out, but a dismantling of their defense by Potter was enough to bring them down to earth. 

Maryland’s struggles guarding Potter was a product of its lack of consistency, a facet of its game that is becoming harder to realize as the season continues.

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