COLLEGE PARK — Going into its game Feb. 19 at Wisconsin, the Maryland men's basketball team and Melo Trimble seemed to have played through the first two-game losing streak of the season and a four-game shooting funk for the star junior guard.
With an easy road win at Northwestern that featured Trimble's career-high 32-point performance on 12-for-17 shooting, the Terps were still in contention with both the Badgers and Purdue for first place in the Big Ten. Even the sting of a subsequent loss at Wisconsin was offset by another strong performance by Trimble.
In a span of four days, though, the Terps lost at by 14 points twice at home — against Minnesota on Wednesday and Iowa on Saturday — and No. 24 Maryland (22-7, 10-5) now finds itself desperately trying to hang onto one of the top four spots in the conference to ensure a double-bye into the quarterfinals of the the upcoming Big Ten tournament in Washington.
Trimble is again struggling to find consistency in his offensive game while trying to lead the Terps out of their first three-game losing streak since the 2011-12 season, Mark Turgeon's first at Maryland. He shot a combined 4-for-25 including 2-for-15 from beyond the arc in the last two losses.
"A week ago, we're at Wisconsin, preparing for Wisconsin, we had a ton of confidence," Turgeon said after Saturday's 83-69 loss to the Hawkeyes that saw the Terps down by as many as 22 in points late in the game. "Three games later, [a week] later, we don't. We've got to get that back. It's up to me to figure out how to do it."
As happened against Minnesota, Maryland's defensive lapses led to offensive struggles against Iowa.
The Hawkeyes, who came into Xfinity Center having made just 16 of 66 3-point shots over their previous three games, made 16 of 26 against the Terps.
Previously cold freshman guard Jordan Bohannon hit eight of his first nine 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 24 points against the Terps.
Freshman forward Tyler Cook added 21 points and 10 rebounds, and "was the difference in the game," Turgeon said.
The Terps made 11 of their 34 shots from 3, and struggled to get much penetration against Iowa's zone defense, which was designed to keep Trimble and freshman guard Anthony Cowan away from the basket. Unlike in the Minnesota game, when redshirt sophomore forward Ivan Bender scored a career-high 15 points, none of Maryland's big men could muster much offensively.
"When you're behind the whole time, you panic a little bit," Turgeon said. "We probably didn't offensive rebound as well as we should have against [the zone]. It's hard. You're trying to push the right buttons and you're trying to figure it out. I'm going to watch the film [and say] 'Damn, we got some really good looks.' We just didn't make them. Then we didn't have some good looks. It's just where we are right now."
Said freshman wing Kevin Huerter, who led the Terps with 13 points and five assists: "I don't think it [the zone] really bothered us that much, to be honest. To score 69 points on our home gym, that's usually games you try to win. We give a lot of credit to them; they scored a lot of points. I don't think we were terrible defensively. It was definitely their night."
Given how young the team is —and how tired some of the three freshmen starters might be at this stage of their first college season — Turgeon will try to help restore the same confidence the team had when it started the Big Ten schedule 8-1 with five straight wins on the road.
Asked Saturday if it's tougher to do with a young team, Turgeon said: "We tried really hard going into this game to make sure that we had confidence. It's what transpires during the game. Are you tough enough to fight through it? And the last couple of games we haven't been. "That's what made up 22-4, was our toughness. Our mental toughness, our physical toughness.
"We're little. We are what we are. But we've just been so tough and for some reason the last few games, we haven't been. So hopefully between now and Tuesday night [at Rutgers] we become this tough team again. When the going gets tough, we stay confident. We play through it and we figure out how to play through it for 40 minutes."
Huerter, always one of the most confident players on the team, remained upbeat despite the losing streak.
"I still think we're a hungry team," he said. "Going forward, I think we're going to try to make more shots. We missed a lot of open ones today, and they made all their open ones, and sometimes it just comes down to that."