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As Maryland heads to second half of Big Ten season, old problems persist

BLOOMINGTON, IND. — Mark Turgeon typically wears a pained look on his face after his Maryland men’s basketball team loses a game. The one he wore after the Terps lost to Indiana on Monday night only seemed to accentuate the worry lines on Turgeon’s forehead.

If doubt isn’t creeping in to Turgeon and his team, frustration certainly is.

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It was evident not just from the tired look in Turgeon’s eyes, but also in his voice as he talked about the way Maryland frittered away a five-point lead with less than five minutes to go to lose to the Hoosiers, 71-68, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

The loss — the Terps’ fourth straight on the road in the Big Ten and the fifth in six games away from Xfinity Center this season — was compounded by the sprained right ankle freshman center Bruno Fernando suffered early in the second half.

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The Terps suffer their fourth straight Big Ten road defeat and play most of the second half without their talented freshman big man.

“My kids battled; that’s all I ask,” Turgeon said. “If we were laying eggs, it’s tougher. But we’re battling. It’s a tough year for us. But we’ve just got to keep battling. We’re getting better. We just weren’t good enough offensively in our execution to win this game, but we battled hard enough.”

Still, some of the problems that have hindered Maryland (15-7, 4-5 Big Ten) throughout what has been an inconsistent, injury-filled season resurfaced, especially down the stretch.

The Terps committed 18 turnovers — 11 combined from sophomore guards Anthony Cowan Jr. (six) and Kevin Huerter (five). It was the most for Maryland since the Terps had 19 against Ohio on Dec. 7 and a season-high 25 in an overtime win at Illinois the prior game.

Aside from Fernando, who scored six points in the 15 minutes he played before getting hurt, Maryland got nothing offensively from its other big men. Neither senior Michal Cekovsky, who had five rebounds and two blocked shots, nor redshirt freshman Joshua Tomaic scored.

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“Bruno was playing really well until that point, especially offensively,” Huerter said. “He was a big presence for us in the first half both scoring and passing, so when he went down, we kind of lost it a little bit inside; we didn’t have as much as we’ve had in the past.”

A 3-point shot by senior wing Jared Nickens tied the game at 57 and started an 8-0 run that gave Maryland a 62-57 lead on a three-point play by freshman guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) with 4:53 to go.

Indiana junior forward Juwan Morgan scored five points in the next 40 seconds to tie the game, and a layup by senior guard Robert Johnson off a turnover by Cowan gave Indiana (12-8, 5-3) a lead it would not relinquish.

Morgan, who was questionable going into the game with a sprained ankle suffered Friday at Michigan State, finished with 25 points, including eight during his team’s 10-1 run when the Hoosiers seemed to take control.

Looking at Bruno Fernando's injury, Maryland fans and a lack of a backup point guard behind Anthony Cowan Jr.

“On the defensive end, we couldn’t get stops late in the game,” said Nickens, who helped keep Maryland in the game and finished with 12 points, his highest output in the Big Ten this season, shooting 4-for-7 on 3-pointers. “I think we let that affect our offense as well.”

And though they outrebounded the Hoosiers 39-28, including 11-4 on the offensive boards, Indiana scored 10 points on fast breaks. A huge putback by Morgan off a pair of missed free throws by redshirt senior point guard Josh Newkirk gave Indiana a 69-66 lead with 36 seconds left.

After winning their share of close games since joining the Big Ten, the Terps are 1-3 this season in league games decided by five points or fewer and 2-5 overall. Conversely, the Hoosiers are 4-0 overall in those situations under first-year coach Archie Miller.

Asked whether the Terps are starting to doubt themselves in close games, Huerter said: “Just one or two plays, a lot of it is, honestly defensively. Morgan’s rebound off the free throw, we can’t let happen. Obviously Michigan, that type of play we can’t let happen. Just little stuff, it’s not always offensively. It’s kind of the little things down the stretch we need to take care of.”

The second half of the Big Ten season begins Sunday, with a home game against No. 6 Michigan State, which as the No. 1 team in the country throttled the Terps by 30 in East Lansing on Jan. 4. That is followed by a trip to face No. 3 Purdue on Wednesday.

“We take every game serious, whether it’s nonconference or in-conference,” Nickens said. “At times like these, we need wins, and when you come up short it kind of hurts us. Hopefully we’ll learn from it and move forward and take it as a lesson.”

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