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Turgeon's Terps hope to get their 'swagger back on the road'

Some fear going back into the ocean if they've been caught in an undertow. Others don't get back on a ski slope if they've had a bad spill. Then there's the Maryland men's basketball team, which is going back on the road.

The 19th-ranked Terps said Friday they are looking forward to their trip to Penn State on Saturday, if anything to prove they are not as bad a road team as they've looked for the past month.

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After winning two of its first three road games in the Big Ten Conference, Maryland (20-5, 8-4) has lost its past three by an average of nearly 20 points and has trailed by more than 20 to Indiana (21), Ohio State (26) and Iowa (23 at halftime, 25 early in the second half).

"I don't think you can erase the last three. You've got to learn from them," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said before practice Friday. "We've got to remember we were a pretty good road team in December and January.

"We played good teams. We've got to understand it's a big game for [our opponents] because we're ranked. It gives those teams a chance to have a statement victory. I expect us to be better."

While the Nittany Lions (15-10, 3-9) are not in the same class as Maryland's previous three road opponents, they have won their past three games at home by an average of more than 15 points, including a 79-51 trouncing of Rutgers on Jan. 24 — 10 days after Maryland beat the Scarlet Knights at home by eight.

Turgeon is hoping the Terps can build on their 68-66 win Wednesday over Indiana at Xfinity Center. Maryland improved to 7-0 this season in games decided by six points or less, which includes a 64-58 win over Penn State on Feb. 4

"I think the Indiana game gave us a lot of confidence going into Penn State," said Turgeon, whose Terps survived when Hoosiers guard Yogi Ferrell missed two shots, including a 3-pointer, in the last six seconds. "We've got to have the same sense of urgency at the start of the game that we had the other night."

The Terps are not alone in their road troubles. Home teams in the Big Ten have won nearly 73 percent (61-23) of the time this season, with three teams undefeated — Maryland (6-0), Wisconsin (6-0) and Indiana (5-0). Only two teams have losing records at home — Rutgers (2-4) and Northwestern (0-4).

Senior forward Evan Smotrycz, who started his college career at Michigan, said the biggest difference between the way the Terps have played lately on the road and the way they began the season — including winning a non-conference game at Oklahoma State — is "probably the mindset" of the team.

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"At the beginning of the year we were hunting teams, trying to prove ourselves," Smotrycz said. "Then we got ranked pretty high [as high as No. 11 in the AP poll] and teams really wanted to beat us and we kind of became the hunted. We've got to get that aggressive mindset back."

Said Turgeon: "The most important thing is that we get a little bit of that swagger back on the road. We had that. We need to get that back. We have to start well."

Part of that is determined by whether the Terps play more of an attacking style or are content to beat teams with their outside shooting. One of the biggest discrepancies is Maryland's home/road splits is the number of free throws the Terps are taking compared to their opponents.

In home games, Maryland is shooting a shade under 24 free throws per game (making around 19), nearly twice the number shot by the visitors. On the road, the Terps are taking around 19 a game (hitting under 13), compared to 22 for the home team.

"We try on the road to get the same results [in terms of free throws], it just doesn't happen that way. It's just the way it is," Turgeon said. "Hopefully Saturday will be a little bit different. To beat Penn State you need to get to the foul line, I think, because they're really solid defensively. To execute that, we'll see."

Said Smotrycz: "We haven't been getting to the line enough [on the road]. I think we've been, as Coach says, walking on eggshells a little bit; I'm not sure why. We've got to come in there with the mindset that we're supposed to win. We just can't try to keep it close."

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Senior forward Jon Graham (Calvert Hall), who started his college career at Penn State and scored a career-high 16 points with six rebounds against his former team earlier this season, said the start of Saturday's game could go a long way to determining its outcome.

"In the past few road games we've had, we've come out flat," Graham said. "The start of the game is just as important as any part, and I think with this one we want to emphasize starting on the road. It's hard to win on the road, but you want to just give yourself a chance by at least getting off to a good start."

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