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Maryland tries to shake habit of losing large leads

A nervous murmur rumbled through Xfinity Center as Ohio State closed the deficit in the final minutes against a Maryland men's basketball team that had once led by 14.

Would the No. 21 Terps fritter away another double-digit lead on their homecourt, as they had done on New Year's Day against Nebraska and, more recently, against then-No. 23 Purdue on Feb. 4? Would Maryland be looking at its first three-game losing streak since Mark Turgeon's first season?

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Rescued by a couple of clutch 3-point shots by freshmen Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan – both coming as the offense seemed to break down and the 30-second clock was about to run out – the Terps survived the Buckeyes, 86-77. But the issue of his team's inability to close out games gnawed at Turgeon afterward.

Asked if he was concerned, Turgeon said: "Huge concern. I've tried all kinds of different things, but with that said, we're 21-4 and 9-3 in the league, for a team picked 10th that's pretty darn good.

"... But the thing is, we know how to win close games; we know how to play in those games. We don't win them all, but we know how to. We'll keep plugging, we'll keep trying to get better. The bottom line is that you score more points than they do, which we did today."

One of the more interesting traits of this year's team is that Maryland, which fell to No. 23 this week after losing at Penn State last week, has been better at closing games out on the road than at home. That's good for a team that plays today at Northwestern and Sunday at Wisconsin.

"It's only happened a couple of times, maybe three times, and we've won most of those games," Turgeon said Tuesday. "I'm not as concerned. The thing about basketball, and with teams, is that every situation is different ...You just try to correct all things to try and do better.

"Our problem against Ohio State is we didn't guard anybody [in the second half].  Another game it might have been because we couldn't score, or we turned the ball or we were fouling. It's different every game and you just try to correct it in the middle of it."

Except for the 70-64 loss in State College – a game that the Terps led only once, at 3-2 – Maryland has not lost this season on the road in the Big Ten. The Terps have won at Iowa (5-1 in Big Ten at home) Michigan (5-2), Minnesota (2-3) and Ohio State (3-4).

Of their five road wins, the Terps twice eliminated double-digit deficits, at Illinois and Minnesota. They held on at Michigan and Ohio State. At Iowa, the Terps built a big early lead, fell behind briefly in the second half and then took over down the stretch.

There are a number of potential reasons for Maryland's second-half letdowns and comebacks.

One could be that the Terps have started three freshmen for most of the season, though Huerter, Cowan and forward Justin Jackson have all made big plays down the stretch on the road. Maryland's offense has struggled when junior guard Melo Trimble has missed shots in the second half.

And, according to Huerter, part of it is the competition itself.

"I think the competition is really good," Huerter said after the Ohio State game. "I don't think they shot very well in the first half; in the second half it seemed like any time there was an open look, anytime we made a mistake, they hit a 3. That's the type of league you're in. They had really good players on their team that can make shots."

The competition will ratchet up this week. Coming off a huge 66-59 road win Sunday at Wisconsin, Northwestern is trying to build on its resume for its first NCAA tournament bid in school history. The No. 11 Badgers will be looking to avenge last year's loss to Maryland on Trimble's last second 3-pointer.

Turgeon and his players are not looking past Northwestern.

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"All year this team has focused on one game," Turgeon said Tuesday. "Northwestern's coming off a huge win, best team they've had maybe ever, since the 30s, whatever. They have our attention. Our guys knows what lies ahead. We've got to be ready to go."

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