In retrospect, No. 24 Maryland’s 13-point loss at No. 6 Michigan on Saturday shouldn’t come as a shock.
The Wolverines have become a dominant home team the past two years, having won 22 straight games at Crisler Center, including 16 this season. They are now 9-1 at home in that two-year stretch against ranked opponents.
As for the Terps, they have not won a single road game against a ranked opponent since Mark Turgeon took over as their coach eight years ago. In fact, Maryland’s streak of not beating a ranked opponent on the road goes all the way back to the memorable 82-80 win over No. 1 North Carolina in 2007-08.
While Maryland will get one more chance this season Tuesday at No. 20 Iowa to get what has become an 0-19 monkey off Turgeon’s back, the Terps will have to play better against the Hawkeyes than they did against the Wolverines.
Here are takeaways from Maryland’s 65-52 loss:
1. Anthony Cowan is starting to look as unsure about his offensive role as Melo Trimble did late in his junior year.
When Cowan arrived as a freshman and Turgeon moved Trimble off the ball for the first time in his career, it eventually threw the then-two-time first-team all-Big Ten guard into a funk from which he never fully recovered.
Though Trimble had his moments early in the season when he was as dominant as he had been during his first years, and followed up a career-high 32-point game in a win at Northwestern with a 27-point performance in a loss at Wisconsin late in the year, there were many more games that season that he didn’t.
When the Terps lost quickly in both the Big Ten tournament and NCAA tournament, Trimble looked like he wasn’t as comfortable in his role as he was early in his career. Right now, Cowan is giving off the same kind of vibe at times, including on Saturday.
Cowan has struggled since a dominant four-game stretch in January when he averaged nearly 23 points and five assists — literally taking over games as Trimble did by doing the bulk of his scoring at crunch time.
In the six subsequent games, Cowan has averaged just over 10 points and five assists while shooting 23 of 72 overall (31.9 percent) and 10 of 39 on 3-pointers (25.6). In a few recent games, Cowan looks like he is forcing shots to get himself going.
While Cowan continues to play hard on the defensive end, which Trimble didn’t always do, he is not attacking as much, evidenced by the fact that he is not going to the free throw line much. He didn’t go at all on Saturday for only the second time this season and fifth time in his career.
2. Turgeon needs to run more plays to get Aaron Wiggins open shots.
After Wiggins hit two late 3-pointers in the first half to help cut what had been a 15-point deficit to nine at halftime, it seemed as if Maryland tried to get the 6-6 wing the ball in his spots. The Terps certainly did a better job of that in the second half.
While many expected Wiggins to eventually become a starter as a freshman this season, he seemed more comfortable coming off the bench and playing what Turgeon called “starter minutes” in many games.
There have been times when Turgeon has changed the lineup coming out at halftime, and in retrospect, Saturday might have been one of those games he did that. Wiggins’ ability to score on a day when others were struggling helped bring the Terps back.
It’s not to suggest Turgeon should make a lineup change with a team that despite some recent struggles is positioned well to be in the top four in the Big Ten, but Wiggins is now starting to prove how good a scorer he is and continues to merit having more plays drawn up for him.
3. Eric Ayala can’t settle for 3-point shots.
As surprisingly good a 3-point shooter as the freshman guard has been this season — he leads the Terps and is fourth in the Big Ten at 44.8 percent — the strength of Ayala’s offensive game is mixing things up and being hard to figure out.
Perhaps Ayala’s best game this season came at Wisconsin on Feb. 1. In a career-high 18-point performance, Ayala hit his first five shots, including three 3-pointers, but had a couple of old-school mid-range shots in there as well.
On Saturday, when Ayala went scoreless for the third time in his short college career, five of his seven misses were on 3-pointers. It appeared that Ayala got frustrated not drawing a foul while driving to the basket early on, and then didn’t try again.
For Maryland to finish the season strong, which is something the Terps haven’t done the past two years, Ayala is going to have to play a key role. Given his job as Maryland’s main ball handler, Ayala can’t simply be a 3-point threat.