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Three takeaways from Maryland men’s basketball’s 70-64 win over No. 6 Wisconsin

The emotion in the Maryland men’s basketball team’s postgame celebration was palpable, as players engulfed coach Mark Turgeon in a raucous locker room scrum.

Over the past two weeks, the Terps’ energy has been a steady crescendo in each game. After a double-digit home loss to Rutgers, Turgeon challenged every member of his team — from players to assistant coaches to media relations staff — to raise their vitality while playing in empty arenas. And on Monday night, Maryland was active throughout its game at Kohl Center and broke through, picking up its first conference win of the season and the first victory over a top-10 team since 2016.

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“We had great energy all night,” Turgeon said. “We’ve had great energy since the Rutgers game. We have to stick together. This is who we are. We’re in the best league in the country and every night is going to be a battle, so we’ve got to have energy on game night and we had great energy tonight.”

From crisp late-game offensive execution to a holiday road trip that brought the team closer, here are three takeaways from Maryland’s 70-64 win over No. 6 Wisconsin on Monday night.

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Maryland remained patient on offense and was ultimately rewarded.

At one point during a first-half offensive possession, Turgeon could be heard animatedly shouting, “Switch sides!” as he continued to push his players to move the ball on offense.

It’s been a focal point since the team’s loss to Clemson three weeks ago, in which Turgeon said afterward that the offensive performance was one of the most selfish he’s seen as a coach.

The Terps got off course from the offensive philosophy midway through the game, with a stretch of 11 consecutive missed shot attempts spanning late in the first half into the early minutes of the second. But Maryland regrouped, began to move the ball and used its speed to drive to the basket and make well-timed kickout passes when dribble penetration drew Wisconsin defenders into the paint.

Maryland outscored Wisconsin in the paint, 38-20, and made 11 of its final 12 field-goal attempts.

“I’ve been on these guys since the Clemson game to move their bodies, move the ball, cut hard. It’s not hard to do,” Turgeon said. “We started cutting harder. We started changing sides with the ball. We started making good reads and putting pressure on them with the dribble. And that was really the difference. And then I thought we showed great patience and we waited for the great shot instead of taking a bad shot.”

Maryland played its biggest with its smaller lineups.

The Terps have been at a clear size disadvantage in some of their recent conference games but Turgeon has seemed to embrace it. The rotation that finished Monday’s game included sophomore forward Donta Scott, who stands at 6 feet 7, and a quartet of guard surrounding him — senior Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph), juniors Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins and sophomore Hakim Hart.

Many of Maryland’s lineups, while featuring offensive versatility, have ceded several inches of height, but it didn’t impact the defensive effort against Wisconsin. Morsell, essentially playing at the forward position, battled with Wisconsin’s frontcourt all night, holding his ground and impeding passes to the post.

And on Monday, the team’s perimeter defense caught up to its post defense, as the Terps communicated more while recovering on fast-break opportunities and rotated quicker in the halfcourt. The Badgers, who entered the game as one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the Big Ten, made eight of 21 attempts and five of 13 in the second half.

“With us this year, we’re probably going to have to play smaller a lot to push the pace and stuff like that,” Morsell said. “We’re playing smaller, I have to play big.”

A five-day road trip took Maryland away from College Park for the holidays but brought the team closer together.

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Turgeon was quick to reveal in his postgame comments that he wasn’t initially a fan of how the Big Ten Conference scheduled the team’s last two games, with a Christmas Day game at Purdue and a game at Wisconsin three days later keeping Maryland on the road throughout the holiday weekend.

But in the aftermath of a key win early in the season, Turgeon reflected on the time away from College Park and said it was beneficial, allowing the team the opportunity to bond after the coronavirus pandemic cut into much of its time in the spring and summer.

From team meals to “NBA 2K” video game tournaments to a Christmas celebration after the Purdue loss that featured family from every member of the team sending heartfelt messages in a video, Turgeon and players were grateful for the extra time spent together.

“Just being able to bond through that, it kind of takes our mind off of basketball, and we get to know each other,” Ayala said. “I think that helps us in our chemistry on the court, just being able to communicate, taking constructive criticism in the right way. Somebody says something, player-wise, we know that it’s for the best of the team and nobody is just getting on each other.

“I think that trips like this build that comfort level around each other, even with the coaches, seeing them every day, we kind of build a bond and it’s just us out there.”

It’s difficult to gauge exactly how much chemistry has been built over the past few days. But Maryland has certainly improved since losing to Clemson in its first defeat of the season. The extent of the Terps’ growth will continue to be revealed, with three of their next four games coming against teams ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 poll.

NO. 16 MICHIGAN@MARYLAND

Thursday, 7 p.m.

TV: ESPN2

Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM

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