In spite of opposing rankings and records, Maryland men’s basketball remains competitive against tough opponents

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

A strong second half was almost enough to push Maryland past No. 13 Michigan State. Although a lay-up with under two seconds left halted the comeback effort, the Terps’ most recent outing was another example of their ability to match with some of the best teams in the nation.

So far this season, Maryland has played four top 25 opponents. Of those four, the Terps won two and their two losses were by one point (Wisconsin) and two points (Michigan State), respectively.

Maryland’s .500 record against ranked opponents is a positive development. It’s a record especially encouraging for a squad in the middle of a tough five game stretch, with opponents who are either in the top 25 or have received votes.

Game two of the five game gauntlet against No. 16 Ohio State is at the Jerome Schottenstein Center, where the Buckeyes are a perfect 9-0 on the year. One of the Buckeyes wins on their home court came against then-No. 1 Duke. 

“We have to make sure we stay focused,” said coach Danny Manning. “We’ve got to compete tip-to-horn. We can’t have any lapses, especially on the road, so the other team’s crowd can get into the game.”

Fortunately for Maryland, its five day break provides ample time to recover and prepare for an equally rested Ohio State team. On Sunday, the Buckeyes will be a week removed from their most recent match. Their midweek Iowa matchup was postponed due to inclement weather.

“We’ve got to make sure defensively we come out, and we have great awareness, and we’re in a stance, and we’re able to guard our principals,” said Manning. “They’re going to run some new plays they haven’t run before. They’ve had plenty of time to put stuff in, just like we have.”

It has been two months since Manning took over as the interim head coach following Mark Turgeon’s departure. And Manning’s no-excuses philosophy has left the team in promising positions against tougher opponents. While the Terps’ record leaves much to be desired, the games have remained consistently close.

“I think that’s what’s been [the] most transitioning to us,” said Eric Ayala. “He doesn’t make excuses about nothing. Every game we play, he believes it’s a winnable game.”