The Maryland men’s basketball team had not beaten a ranked team since they defeated No. 18 Purdue way back on Feb. 6, 2016, so Wednesday night’s 74-72 victory over No. 24 Nebraska was not only uplifting but also timely, considering the Terps’ upcoming schedule.
They play four straight ranked Big Ten teams over an 11-day stretch from Jan. 11 through Jan. 21, starting with No. 21 Indiana and No. 22 Wisconsin at home before taking on No. 14 Ohio State and No. 8 Michigan State on the road.
Those four games come after they visit unranked Rutgers on Saturday and Minnesota on Tuesday, and — down the road — they will play six more games against ranked teams in conference based on the current Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Wednesday night’s win ended a string of 12 straight losses against ranked opponents and should provide a confidence boost for a very young team that has had trouble finishing in a couple of its early season losses.
“I think it’s a huge win,” said junior guard Anthony Cowens, who scored 19 points to lead all Maryland scorers. “I think we prepared very well for this game. I think Coach [Mark Turgeon] had us ready to the best of his ability.
“I think it’s a big win, especially for us to be such a young team to be able to handle such a big game. … I think it was just a big win."
There were times when it wasn’t pretty. The young Terps committed some big turnovers at crunch time, but hung in until freshman Jalen Smith dropped in a floater in the lane with 3.8 seconds left to put them over the top.
Turgeon acknowledged that his team made some of the same mistakes that have plagued them at several junctures this season, but reminded everyone that this is far from an experienced team.
“It’s been a struggle,” he said. “We’ve got the fifth-youngest team in the country. Our guys are doing great. I’m really proud of them. We’re getting better. … We’ve got a young team — unbelievably young team — and we’re doing some really good things and this will give us confidence moving forward.”
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
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