COLLEGE PARK — A year ago, the Maryland men’s basketball team was something of an anomaly when it came to the Big Ten Conference. In going 12-6 overall in the league, the Terps won seven of nine road games, including their first five.
The first road loss came at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center, where this year’s team plays Wednesday night hoping to turn around its struggles away from Xfinity Center.
After winning its league road opener this season at Illinois, in overtime and with help at the end of regulation from the home team, the Terps have lost five straight.
Much of it has to do with the most challenging road schedule Maryland (16-9, 5-7) has played since joining the Big Ten in 2014-15, with four games against teams currently ranked in the Top 25.
“We’re a different team. I think that has a little to do with it,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said Tuesday. “And we have played good teams. I do think we’ve played better on the road as we’ve been out there. It’s hard out there. And what we’ve been through [with injuries] makes it even more difficult.”
Maryland still needs help at point guard next season after four-star point guard Tyger Campbell committed to UCLA on Tuesday, continuing a streak of recruiting misses for the Terps men’s basketball team.
“It is a lot of mental, especially when you come out of the gate with some of the places you go to play and the energy of the crowd and a lot of teams tend to get off to good starts on their home courts, especially in front of a big crowd,” sophomore guard Kevin Huerter said Tuesday.
“Then you don’t always get the same calls that you get at home that you do on the road. It’s just general across college basketball. It kind feels of like everyone in the building is against you, the refs, the crowd. That’s something you’ve got to kind of overcome, along with winning the game.”
Asked what the difference is this season compared with last season, Huerter was candid in speaking last week about the mindset of the respective teams.
"Last year, going on the road, to be honest, having someone like Melo [Trimble], knowing how even-keeled he was, he was so content going on the road,” Huerter said a couple of days after the Purdue game. “A lot of guys followed that.”
If there has been anybody who has tried to carry on Trimble’s tradition of playing as well on the road as at home — if not better — it’s Cowan.
Cowan is scoring more (nearly 20 points) and shooting better (48 percent overall, 47 percent on 3-pointers) at Big Ten road venues this season than at home. At Xfinity Center, Cowan has averaged 15.5 points while shooting just under 43 percent overall and a shade over 33 percent on 3-pointers.
More typically, Huerter has played better in Big Ten home games, where has averaged just over 17 points and shot the ball a little better from the field. Huerter’s road production drops off (14.8), and he has shot 48 percent from the field (50 percent overall at home) and 42.4 percent on 3-pointers, less than a percentage point lower than at home.
Not surprisingly, the biggest difference is in free throws and turnovers.
The Terps are shooting 82.4 percent from the line at home compared with 73.8 on the road, while taking 34 more attempts. Maryland has also averaged nearly double the turnovers on the road (15 to eight).
Maryland has run into other problems, such as foul trouble and injuries.
Before he bruised his left heel last week at a practice, senior center Michal Cekovsky was in foul trouble at Indiana after he and freshman center Bruno Fernando were in foul trouble at Michigan State earlier in the season.
With the team already down to eight scholarship players, redshirt junior guard Dion Wiley didn’t play in the second half at Purdue after spraining his ankle in the first half and graduate transfer Sean Obi fouled out, playing just seven minutes.
“Sometimes the whistle is a little bit tougher out there on the road,“ Turgeon said. “And we’re so thin now, it makes it more difficult for us. We seem to be in unbelievable foul trouble on the road. … It’s just a lot of stuff that’s come up.”
Huerter believes that despite only one sellout at home — against Michigan State — the Terps feed off their fans at Xfinity Center.
“I think most of our team, we come out with good energy [at home] when we have our crowd into it,” Huerter said last week.
Still, Turgeon didn’t anticipate this year’s road trouble, having won 16 of 27 road games in Maryland’s first three years in the Big Ten.
“I’m disappointed, I expected to win more road games, Turgeon said Tuesday. “Maybe we will down the stretch. We’ll see. We still believe that because of what we did last year we’re a good road team, even though it hasn’t produced the wins.”
NOTES: Cekovsky is still being listed as “day to day,” but with Huerter saying that the Terps will likely go away from the big lineup they used with Cekovsky and Fernando starting in beating the Nittany Lions on Jan. 2 at home — when Maryland went to the foul line 34 times (hitting 23) to only four for Penn State (making two), it seems likely the 7-foot-1 Slovakian is still out … After having drawn several hundred fans to the games in State College in 2014-15 and again last season, there probably won't be as many Wednesday with weather forecasts calling for 5 to 8 inches of snow as well as some ice in the area.