Terps look to rebound from disappointing loss
If there’s anything that can be guaranteed with regard to the Big Ten this season, it’s probably this: there is no team that’s clearly head and shoulders above the rest. Michigan State currently leads the league with a 5-1 record, but there are five teams (including Maryland) with two league losses and six with three. Not in that cluster of teams is Ohio State, which got off to a hot start in non-conference play but is 1-4 against Big Ten opponents. With that being the case, now isn’t the time for panic when it comes to Maryland’s recent play. But there is certainly reason for concern in the aftermath of Friday’s loss at Iowa, and life doesn’t get easier with Maryland heading to Wisconsin tonight.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
The tandem of Joe Wieskamp and Luka Garza proved to be too much for Maryland to handle in Iowa City, as they combined to score 47 points and grab 24 rebounds. But to be fair, the defense wasn’t the issue even with those two going off. No matter how stout a team is on that end of the floor, scoring 49 points isn’t going to get the job done on most nights in the shot-clock era. Maryland made just 32.7 percent of its shots from the field, shot 4-of-22 from three and made just 11 of its 20 free throw attempts. Add in 17 turnovers, with Eric Ayala responsible for four of them, and that’s how you get beat by 18.
Anthony Cowan going 2-of-10 from the field, while he is shooting just 38.8 percent from the field on the season, isn’t a major concern because he’s shown the ability to get going in the past. What is a concern is the recent play of sophomore Aaron Wiggins, who went scoreless in 17 minutes and nearly had as many turnovers (three) as shot attempts (four). After a run of eight consecutive games in which he attempted at least ten field goals, he’s put up a total of ten in Maryland’s last two games. For the season he’s shooting 35.0 percent from the field and 28.7 percent from three, and while the percentages are certainly a concern the fact that he isn’t putting up shots is an even bigger issue.
Maryland can ill-afford to have a gun-shy Wiggins on the floor, which likely explains why he played a season-low 17 minutes Friday night. The margin for error isn’t there given the team’s lack of depth, and perimeter players who aren’t willing to put up shots can make life more difficult for Jalen Smith in the post as well. Wisconsin’s defense can certainly be tough to crack, but Maryland needs Wiggins to take shots. It isn’t as if he’s forgotten how to shoot a basketball overnight, but the sooner he rediscovers the confidence in his shot the better for both Wiggins and the Terps.
The defense has been there, as Maryland heads into Tuesday’s games ranked eighth in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. Opponents are shooting 37.3 percent from the field and 31.4 percent from three, while Maryland is averaging 5.1 blocks per game. If there’s a concern on that end of the floor it’s what happens after the shot, as Maryland is ranked 11th in the Big Ten in defensive rebound percentage (74.2). The good news regarding Tuesday is that Wisconsin hasn’t been much of a threat on the offensive glass, as it ranks 13th in the Big Ten in offensive rebounds in conference games.
The addition of Micah Potter has helped Wisconsin in the frontcourt, giving the Badgers another option to go along with the likes of Nate Reuvers and Aleem Ford, and they have the depth needed to cause Jalen Smith and company some trouble in the paint. But, provided Maryland’s wings chip in on the boards they should be able to hold their own rebounding-wise. A matchup with Wisconsin boils down to pace more often than not, as the Badgers are one of the slowest teams in college basketball. Greg Gard’s team ranks 350th nationally in adjusted tempo, and while Maryland doesn’t play particularly fast itself dealing with a style like Wisconsin’s can prove problematic if patience isn’t exercised.
Maryland currently averages 12.9 turnovers per game and is turning the ball over on 15.5 percent of its possessions. Wisconsin isn’t big on using its defense to force turnovers, so Maryland will need to be smart with the basketball in the spots where it may look to push the tempo. The transition game hasn’t been a strong suit of the Terps on a consistent basis, as evidenced by what happened at Iowa. The decision-making of Cowan and Ayala on the ball will be key if Maryland is to get the road win tonight. They’ll be dealing with the experienced trio of Brevin Pritzl, D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison, with Trice and Davison starting and Pritzl being the reliable option off the bench.
Whether or not Maryland beats Wisconsin will come down to two things: making smart decisions with the basketball, and players not hesitating when open shots become available. That especially rings true for Wiggins, whose growth may be what unlocks the potential of this team.
Raphielle’s been writing about college sports for more than a decade, making the move to college basketball alone in 2013. Beginning his work with the former website CollegeHoops.net in 2003, Raphielle spent 3 years writing for NBCSports.com beginning 2013, covering CBB and the Olympics. In 2016, Raphielle joined Heavy.com. If there’s a game on, there’s a strong likelihood that he’s watching it.