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Terps

Rutgers' league record isn't pretty but Turgeon is still wary

COLLEGE PARK — Rutgers notched its first Big Ten win under first-year coach Steve Pikiell on Saturday, meaning the Terps won't undergo the same dishonor as last year, when they allowed previously winless Minnesota to finally take a conference game in February.

Still, Terps coach Mark Turgeon doesn't believe that the Scarlet Knights are the same team that they were in their first two years in the league under former coach Eddie Jordan. That's why Turgeon doesn't think this tonight's matchup at Xfinity Center is a trap game for Maryland (17-2, 5-1), which is tied for first place with Wisconsin.

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Also, consider this: the team that Rutgers (12-8, 1-6) beat for its first league win this season was Nebraska, which is the only team so far to defeat Maryland in the Big Ten. That game, which ended with the Cornhuskers scoring the last 14 points to win 67-65, has been referenced in each of the subsequent four victories.

"We've had a long time to prepare, we learned a lot from the Nebraska game [on New Year's Day]," Turgeon said Monday after practice. "Nebraska came in and beat us. They were pretty good that day. We've got a ton of respect for Rutgers, what they're doing.

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"They beat Nebraska, we didn't. They've got a player that's as good as anybody in our league in [sophomore guard Corey] Sanders that can take over a game. We prepared hard. We've had a great week of practice. Hopefully we'll play well."

If anything, Turgeon believes Rutgers beating Nebraska on Saturday in Piscataway, N.J. -- on a last-second shot by Sanders -- is a positive for the Terps.

"You always like to play a team after a victory moreso than a loss," he said. "I've learned that over the years. Happy for them, because they've been in a lot of games. They work hard. They play as hard as anybody. They rebound better than anybody in the league, which is tough for us. Steve's doing a nice job over there."

Two years ago, Maryland needed a strong surge down the stretch to win both games against Rutgers. In the team's only meeting last season, the Terps beat the Scarlet Knights at Xfinity Center, 88-63, in a game in which Jordan thanked Turgeon afterward for emptying his bench early.

Not that it matters to Turgeon.

"They're a whole different team. We didn't play Melo [Trimble] much, we tried to keep the score down," Turgeon said. "This year, they're a basketball team. They've won 12 games, that's a lot of games. …They're probably thinking NCAA tournament. They've got our attention. They're a good team."

How much Trimble plays Tuesday depends on the game, and the junior guard's health. Trimble sat out practice Monday with an illness – "Melo was sick today," was all Turgeon said – and his status for the game remains uncertain. "Hopefully he'll be better; we'll see how he feels tomorrow," Turgeon said.

Though Trimble has not missed a game in his Maryland career, playing through a lower back injury as a freshman and playing with a tender hamstring for most of the Big Ten season a year ago, his teammates believe the Terps have enough to make up in case of his absence.

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"I think we can. It's a next man up mentality. Coach has been talking about it all year," said junior guard Jaylen Brantley, who has scored double figures off the bench in each of Maryland's last two victories, road wins at Illinois and Iowa. "I just feel if he's out, we'll just play as hard as if he was playing and everybody will step up in a role and we'll see what happens tomorrow."

don.markus@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sportsprof56


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