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Despite offensive struggles, Terps able to defeat hot shooting Rutgers

Maryland won a game on Wednesday that they probably would have lost last year.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into Wednesday’s match-up against Rutgers, Maryland knew they would be facing a team full of confidence. The Scarlet Knights were coming off of a huge upset win over a top-five Wisconsin Badgers team, arguably one of the most impressive victories in the history of their men’s basketball program.

When the Terps struggled out of the gate on Wednesday, Rutgers quickly took advantage, beginning the game on an 8-0 run and quickly reminding everyone in attendance at the XFINITY Center that this was a dangerous team playing with a lot of confidence.

"We had the confidence to play with the best teams in the country and we have to keep proving it because we go to Minnesota, then we play Michigan and it just keeps going on and on," Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan said following the game.

After his team went down by eight, head coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout. His team was missing shots, turning over the ball, and not playing up to their potential.

"We started off kind of slow," freshman Jared Nickens said after the game. "I knew coach got on us during the timeout. We just came out and tried to pick up the offense and we got a lot of open shots so when the ball swung my way I had confidence it was going in."

Coming out of the timeout, Maryland went on an 8-0 run of their own, erasing Rutgers’ early lead in the blink of an eye.

"You have to give Rutgers a lot of credit, I thought they were terrific," Turgeon said. "They started the game well. They gave us everything we had."

Despite Rutgers’ hot start, Maryland found themselves with a seven point lead as the first half concluded. But much like the start of the game, Rutgers came out red hot to begin the second half, hitting their first six shots. With Maryland missing their first eight attempts from the field, Rutgers quickly turned a seven point deficit into a four point lead.

Rutgers was on a 16-5 run and had a six-point lead five minutes into the second half before Maryland was finally able to respond to Rutgers’ hot shooting.

"They started the start of the second half well. I thought they really shot the ball well and are playing with a lot of confidence," Turgeon said.

Several times last season, Maryland found themselves in a position very similar to what they experienced on Wednesday; facing an opponent that on paper appears to be less talented, but that shoots incredibly well on that particular night. Think back to the Oregon State and Boston University games last year, both loses to teams Maryland should have beaten at home. But this year, the Terps have found ways to turn those types of games into wins. They might not be pretty, but they mostly find a way to grind it out.

"For us to shoot 8-for-33 in the second half and for them to play as well as they did for the first 10 to 12 minutes of the second half and for us to find a way to win, is a real credit to our guys," Turgeon said.

"We have confidence now," junior forward Jake Layman said following the game. "We know now that no matter what is happening we are going to find a way to win."

Maryland also relied on one of their greatest strengths in the second half to help them overcome their poor shooting from the field; the free throw line. The Terps got to the line 22 times in the second half after attempting just six free throws in the first 20 minutes of the game. How significant was that for Maryland? The 16 points they scored from the line in the second half accounted for just more than 45% of their second half scoring.

"We just have to continue to play Maryland basketball, stick to what we do, focus on our principles, and we’ll be fine," Nickens said. Nickens, who was another key to Maryland’s success on Wednesday, finished the game with 12 points, all coming on three-point attempts, as he made four of his seven shot attempts from beyond the arc.

"Jared can do that and our guys want him to shoot it," Turgeon said. "The best thing about it was that he didn't hesitate. He rose up. We needed it."

Maryland is now alone atop of the Big Ten standings, with a 4-1 conference record and a 16-2 record overall. They’re one win away from matching last season’s win total, with 13 regular season games remaining.

Next up for Maryland is a rematch with Michigan State at the XFINITY Center Saturday afternoon. The Terps defeated the Spartans on the road in double overtime back on December 30th, 68-66.