From a quality defensive effort to the Terps’ continued search for consistency, here are three takeaways from the Maryland men’s basketball team’s 61-55 loss to visiting No. 14 Wisconsin on Wednesday night.
Maryland’s defense was good enough for a potential upset bid.
After knocking off then-No. 17 Minnesota, 63-49, on Saturday for a third road win against a ranked opponent this season, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon was asked if he had found the clue to eking out wins against top teams.
Turgeon responded that any hope in collecting more wins would reside in his team accepting all defensive challenges, regardless of its size disadvantage. The outlook made sense, given the Terps had just held an opponent to under 50 points for the first time in almost two years.
The Terps’ defensive effort against the Badgers wasn’t perfect by any means, especially late as they attempted to come back from an 18-point halftime deficit, but certainly good enough in a rematch against one of the Big Ten Conference’s best teams. Wisconsin shot 39.2% from the field, its third-worst shooting performance in conference play. But Maryland’s strong shooting against Minnesota did not carry back home and the Terps had their second-worst shooting performance in conference play (35.8%).
“We held them to 61 in our building. That should be good enough to win and it wasn’t enough,” Turgeon said.
The Terps weren’t making shots, but it’s tough to fault the ones they were taking.
Maryland’s 70-64 win at Wisconsin a month ago, the first of three ranked road victories this season, provided an early look at the blueprint for victory for the Terps this season. Just beginning to embrace their small-ball approach, they spaced the floor, used their speed to get into the paint and then found open teammates when defenders collapsed into the lane.
After giving up 38 paint points, the Badgers sought to limit how often the Terps got inside. Aside from a few early backdoor cuts, Wisconsin was successful. Maryland had just 20 paint points and attempted 30 3-pointers (with nine makes), its second-most this season. While some shot attempts were ill-advised, Maryland got several open looks within the flow of the offense but just couldn’t hit the outside shots. The Terps missed their first nine 3-point attempts before sophomore forward Donta Scott finally ended the drought.
Turgeon was content with the shot selection, especially without a legitimate low post presence. “We were down, so you play that way, especially in the small lineup,” he said. “But, I think we had some really good looks.”
“I thought if we could keep the ball out of the paint and contest 3′s, we were going to live with that,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said after the game. “And that proved to be a recipe that worked.”
Maryland’s search for consistency to continues.
Wednesday’s loss kept Maryland winless at home, but more importantly, it highlighted the problems the team has in sustaining a high level of play within back-to-back halves, let alone back-to-back games.
The Terps shot 25% from the field in the first half and the shooting struggles were widespread as they went down 38-20 at halftime. But when Maryland made two of its first three shot attempts, all 3-pointers, and later whittled the deficit to three, 43-40, with 12 minutes remaining, all momentum had shifted to its side and it appeared the team was going to pull off another trademark comeback.
It quickly fizzled out, however, with a mix of missed shots, turnovers and lackluster defense ending the comeback effort. Overcoming a margin as large as the Terps faced requires a near-perfect effort, one that they haven’t yet shown the ability to put together over several periods of play.