COLLEGE PARK — In the jam-packed schedule of the Big Ten this season, teams don’t have much time to celebrate significant victories or ruminate over lopsided defeats.
Maryland had only a little more time to recover from its 30-point road loss at No. 1 Michigan State on Thursday night than it did to enjoy its six-point win over Penn State on Tuesday night.
It will be interesting to see if the Terps can forget what happened at the Breslin Center when they take the court Sunday night at Xfinity Center against Iowa, which has yet to win in the Big Ten this season.
“Every game’s hard for us, every game’s going to be a battle — whether it’s home, away, it doesn’t matter,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said after practice Saturday. “We’re just going to try to get better and do the best we can.”
Sophomore guard Kevin Huerter, who helped keep the game against the Spartans competitive for the first 15 minutes, said he believes the Terps (13-4, 2-2 Big Ten) have done a good job putting the 91-61 defeat behind them.
“It’s Big Ten season. We’re going to play games every two to three days,” Huerter said. “If we try to sulk on an away game, especially the way they played, we’re going to get beat again on Sunday and we can’t do that.”
Asked about the mood of the team since the loss, Huerter was blunt.
“In ways, I thought it was embarrassing, to be honest,” he said Saturday. ‘I think that was the first time for a couple of us that we lost that way in our life. I could count on one hand, maybe one finger, the times I’ve lost by 30 in my life.
“It was frustrating, but it was embarrassing at the same time. A lot of us are still coming to grips that the [injured] guys are not going to be joining us for the rest of the season. We’ve got to make do with what we have and there’s a lot of guys that we need to be more productive.”
As dominant as the Spartans have been for most of the season, Huerter said, "Going into that game, seeing the talent they have and the talent we have, that team isn’t 30 points better than us. We know we could have played better, but you have to give the credit to them, they made a lot of shots.”
Despite his team’s most lopsided loss since coming to Maryland seven years ago, Turgeon reiterated his postgame comment about thinking his team “got better” playing the Spartans.
Asked how he thought the Terps improved, Turgeon said, “We got much better in transition defense. That is a fast, really good team. They killed us in half-court defense.
“I thought physically, rebounding-wise, we battled them. We had some small lineups out there. We just got tired late in the game. We’ve got to be a little bit deeper. They’re a deep basketball team with a lot of talent. I thought offensively in the first half, we executed really well against maybe the best defensive team in the country.”
Led by Huerter, Maryland made eight of its first 10 shots and five of 10 3-pointers in the first half. Still, the Terps trailed by 12 at halftime after Michigan State finished the half on a 15-3 run. The Spartans made 10 of 16 3-pointers in the half.
“We got better,” Turgeon said Saturday. “It’s hard to think that when you lose by the score [91-61], even though it kept getting worse and worse because their depth’s really good, I felt like we got better, especially the first half. We really played at a high level.”
Now comes the challenge of getting his team ready for a team that has yet to win in the Big Ten this season. The Hawkeyes have lost their first four games, including a 92-81 loss at home Thursday to Ohio State, perhaps the biggest surprise in the league.
“To me, Iowa’s really good,” Turgeon said. “[Nicholas] Baer’s a heck of a player; he scares the heck out of me. [Luke] Garza, the local kid (Washington), is playing really well. It all starts with [Jordan] Bohannon and Tyler [Cook].”
After Maryland won in Iowa City last January, Bohannon and Cook, both freshmen at the time, combined for 45 points in an 83-69 win over the Terps at Xfinity Center in February.
The Hawkeyes led by as many as 22 points in the second half and fans loudly booed the Terps several times.
“They came in here and whipped us pretty good. Cook just came down in transition and posted us up and scored, and then Bohannon hit his first eight 3s,” Turgeon said. “We’ll be aware of them.”
Coaches have long believed that the best way to beat a struggling team is to take away whatever shred of confidence remains early on.
Turgeon isn’t sure his undermanned team that is still adjusting to the season-ending injuries to forwards Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender is capable of doing that, at least for now.
“I’m not sure we’re capable of stepping on anybody, to be honest with you,” Turgeon said. “We are who we are. But I like the way our guys have handled the injuries and we continue to work hard, we’ve been resilient. We know it’s going to be a heck of a tough game tomorrow. I just want us to play well and get better.”