Maryland guard Richaud Pack said he felt the difference almost immediately when the men's basketball team returned to practice Saturday, two days after the No. 17 Terps suffered their worst loss of the season at Ohio State.
Pack, who had been one of the team's steadiest contributors this season, said Tuesday that it was even more obvious by Monday, when Maryland (18-4, 6-3) got ready for Wednesday's home game against Penn State (14-8, 2-7).
The subject was fatigue, and how tired the Terps looked during a lackluster performance that led to an 80-56 loss to the Buckeyes last Thursday at Value City Arena.
"I probably didn't feel it during [the Ohio State game] but I felt a lot better since, refreshed with fresh legs the last couple of days," Pack said before practice Wednesday at Xfinity Center. "You'd see it with little things like people dunking around after practice that you wouldn't have seen a week ago."
Though a tough stretch in the schedule that also included a 19-point loss at Indiana the week before contributed to Maryland getting outrebounded, 51-32, by a Buckeyes team not known for being beasts on the boards, junior forward Jake Layman said Wednesday that it was more than just being tired.
It showed not only with the Terps slow getting to rebounds, particularly on their offensive end, but in closing out on 3-point shooters and providing help to teammates who had been beaten off the dribble for drives.
Ohio State continued a string of hot shooting that started at Indiana, and even continued during a one-point home win over Northwestern. The Buckeyes were 17-for-29 in the second half overall, and 10 of 17 on 3-point shots for the game.
"I think it was just laziness on some possessions, if one guy is lazy it breaks the whole defense down," Layman said.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon is hoping the combination of the team's first bye – not playing in six days – and coming back home, where the Terps have yet to lose a Big Ten game all season, will be a perfect remedy.
Turgeon said the time off has given Maryland a chance to focus on its offense and defense rather than devote most of practice to trying to figure out what the opponent is going to do. In this case, the Terps know that Penn State will give the ball to senior guard D.J. Newbill, the Big Ten's leading scorer.
"Sometimes you put too much into the team you're playing and not enough into yourselves, we have really worked on us," Turgeon said. "We've had great practices, mentally and physically. I don't know how we're going to perform tomorrow night but we're in a better place today because we've worked really hard since the Ohio State game."
Turgeon said that what has happened to his team after its surprisingly hot start was not totally unexpected or unusual given what has transpired with others across the country.
"Unless you're Kentucky or Kansas, everybody loses," Turgeon said. "We can lose the way we lost [at Ohio State] and drop one spot in the polls tells you everybody loses. We obviously didn't play as well as we wanted at Ohio State. Going into that game we had won four out of five. I expect us to play better in February, I really do."
Turgeon is confident that freshman point guard Melo Trimble, who scored a career-low three points against the Buckeyes while missing all eight shots he took from the field, will bounce back against the Nittany Lions.
Asked how Trimble responded after being outclassed by fellow freshman D'Angelo Russell, who had 18 points, 14 rebounds and six assists against the Terps, Turgeon said: "Great. Melo's a winner. He had a game where he didn't play well but the whole team stunk. Melo's been terrific in practice. He even took it to another level that I haven't seen. He's moving well, maybe he's fresh."
Senior forward Jon Graham, who played his first two years in college at Penn State, said that it is important for the Terps to "move on" from the second-worst defeat since Turgeon took over as coach. Yet Maryland must have a different mindset when it takes the court against the Nittany Lions, who had a two-game winning streak broken Saturday with a 60-58 loss at Illinois.
"You only have a certain number of games in your college career and I think you have to play as hard as you can as long as you can," Graham said. "I always mention the words, 'play to exhaustion, play until coach has to take you out.' That shows that you're playing hard."