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3-point shots: Observations and opinions from Maryland's Big Ten tournament loss to Wisconsin

The Big Ten men’s basketball season ended Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden for Maryland much the same way it had begun three months ago.

With the Terps coming close, but losing in the end.

With key shots falling short, going long or spinning in and out.

With crucial rebounds just out of the grasp, or the opposition just quicker to the ball.

As much as this seemed like a continuation of the 18 regular-season games that preceded it, there was some finality to the most unsuccessful year in the four since Maryland joined the Big Ten.

Here are some observations and opinions from the No. 8 seed Terps’ 59-54 loss to ninth-seeded Wisconsin in the second round of the Big Ten tournament.

Fernando’s potential

Though he seemed to revert at times to the way he played earlier in his freshman year, when he and the game itself were moving a bit too fast for his own good, center Bruno Fernando took another stride against a quality opponent.

The 6-foot-10 Angolan finished with 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting (2-for-2 from the free-throw line) along with a team-high nine rebounds and more than held his own against Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ.

While Fernando had help from his teammates, who tried to swarm Happ whenever he touched the ball, the senior center finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

It was another solid performance for Fernando, who played well against Purdue’s Isaac Haas (32 points and 17 rebounds in two games) and Penn State’s Mike Watkins (30 points and 20 rebounds in two games).

It also showed progress, since Fernando only had six points, also with nine rebounds, when the Terps beat the Badgers in College Park on Feb. 4. Still, Fernando also showed his inexperience, turning the ball over a team-high four times.

For those interested in whether Fernando will return for his sophomore season or make the mistake of trying to jump to the NBA — as talented freshman Diamond Stone did two years ago, with disastrous results — he certainly sounded as if he’s coming back.

Fernando is constantly talking in postgame interviews about how much he hates to lose, and how much he loves his teammates. Given that the bulk of the team returns next season, Fernando seems to want to be part of a potential turnaround.

Recruiting class of 2014 near the end

What was once celebrated as Mark Turgeon’s best class will likely end its run as the most disappointing, rivaling the 2012 group.

While nobody has quit on Turgeon and transferred — as Seth Allen and Charles Mitchell did after their sophomore seasons — the three players who came in with McDonald’s All American Melo Trimble are not exactly going out on a high note.

While center Michal Cekovsky has certainly been more productive at times in his four seasons than Shaquille Cleare was for two, the 7-foot-1 Slovakian has struggled during the stretch run of his career, especially since coming back after missing three games with a bruised heel.

In the five games since his return before Thursday, Cekovsky was averaging 4.5 points and a shade under three rebounds. Against Wisconsin, Cekovsky failed to score and had just one rebound in nine minutes.

Redshirt junior guard Dion Wiley, who was a member of the 2014 class but fell a year behind after missing his sophomore year with a torn meniscus, failed to hit a 3-pointer for the second straight game. He followed an 0-for-5 performance against Michigan with an 0-for-3 showing against Wisconsin.

Wiley, who had played well of late, also committed the critical turnover in the waning seconds with Maryland down three and looking to set up sophomore guard Kevin Huerter for the potential tying 3-pointer. Sophomore point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. took some heat off Wiley by acknowledging that he botched the play.

Senior wing Jared Nickens, who has never played as well as he did when he was a freshman, missed his only two shots, both of them 3-pointers, and got just one rebound in 12 minutes. Since scoring 13 points at Penn State Feb. 17, Nickens has missed 14 of 19 shots, including 10 of 13 from 3-point range.

Since Nickens is a strong defender and doesn’t contribute much in any other area aside from shooting 3-pointers, with less than 1.5 rebounds a game and just 10 assists in 514 minutes, it’s not clear what contribution he will make in whatever remaining games the Terps play.

Angry fans

After the crowd at Xfinity Center booed loudly at halftime of last Saturday’s 24-point loss to then No. 17 Michigan, a few fans who made the trek to Madison Square Garden yelled in the direction of Maryland’s bench early in the second half and after the game Thursday.

One fan even came over to the media table sitting courtside to say that “Turgeon is done.” A combination of three straight NCAA tournament appearances, a $13.5 million buyout (five years at a reported $2.7 million per year) and a potential top 5 recruiting class makes that unlikely.

Still, it will be interesting to see what happens if the Terps get a National Invitation Tournament bid.

While Turgeon and the Terps will certainly accept one, given how young a nucleus they have, where they play the first-round game could become a factor. That Maryland plays a lot better at Xfinity Center than it does on the road could be offset by the small crowd an NIT will attract to College Park.

The smaller the crowd, the easier it will be to hear Turgeon’s growing number of detractors.

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