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Maryland men’s basketball vs. Wisconsin preview

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The Terps are back home looking to snap a three-game losing streak.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland men’s basketball returns to the Xfinity Center on Sunday afternoon to face off with Wisconsin for its “Red Out” game.

The Terps (15-9, 4-7 Big Ten) are back home hoping to get a win to end a stretch that has seen them lose three straight and six of their last eight games. Coming off a road loss to Purdue, Wisconsin may be the perfect opponent for Maryland; the Badgers have dropped four straight and seven of their last eight during the same time span. Wisconsin has struggled in the post-Nigel Hayes era, and despite having a do-it-all player in Ethan Happ, the Badgers sit 12th in the conference.

Maryland has another nationally televised Sunday matchup, with this one tipping off at 1 p.m. ET on CBS.

Wisconsin Badgers (10-14, 3-8 B1G)

2016-17 Record: 27-10, 12-6

Head coach Greg Gard is having a rough year after leading Wisconsin to the Sweet 16 in his first two years at the helm. It’s just his third season as a head coach, after being an assistant coach at the college level for over 20 years.

Players to know

Ethan Happ, senior, forward, 6’10/235, No. 22. Finally able to fully move out from Hayes’ shadow, Happ has the fifth-highest usage rate in the country. He does it all for the Badgers, leading the team in scoring, rebounding and assists with 17.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists a game. Happ also is also tied as the team’s best thief with 1.4 steals a night.

Brad Davison, freshman, guard, 6’3/205, No. 34. The Maple Grove, Indiana, native is the only other Badger averaging double figures, averaging 11.2 points while adding 2.3 assists as well. Davison also shares the team lead with Happ for steals per game, while shooting the second best three-point percentage of any Badger that launches at least two triples.

Khalil Iverson, junior, guard, 6’5/210, No. 21. Iverson is the Badgers’ third option and second best rebounder, averaging 9.3 points and 4.6 rebounds a night. He’s more than doubled his scoring from a season ago, when he averaged 3.9 points a game.

Strength

Having Ethan Happ. Happ is one of the most talented centers in the conference, and is Wisconsin’s X-factor. Because of his versatility as a scorer and passer, he provides a unique presence for the Badgers. At 6’10, he has guard-like skills and gives opposing teams a difficult decision to make. If teams double Happ, he’s able to find the open player. However, few players have been able to handle Happ one-on-one in the post.

Weakness

Scoring. Wisconsin is averaging just 61.8 points a game in conference play, which is fewer than every Big Ten team not named Rutgers. The Badgers rank dead last in the conference in field goal attempts, 11th in field goal percentage and 12th in three-point percentage. They’ve struggled putting the ball in the rim.

Three things to watch

1. How will Maryland guard Ethan Happ? Maryland couldn’t choose a rougher stretch to miss its starting center. With Michal Cekovsky still day-to-day with a bruised heel, the Terps will throw a combination of Bruno Fernando, Sean Obi and Joshua Tomaic at Happ, potentially with Darryl Morsell mixed in.

“You really can’t stop an individual like him. He’s a talented individual, he’s going to get his regardless,” Morsell told reporters Saturday. “As a team, we have to slow him down. That’s really what it is. We have to work together as a team, be on the same page at all times, and just try to slow him down and make all his shots tough.”

2. Will Bruno Fernando continue to stretch the floor? While Fernando missed his only three-point attempt against Purdue, he hit a pair of 15-foot jumpers that helped open up the floor in the second half. “I think it helps our offense,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We’re a lot harder to guard.

“I’d like Bruno to make threes, in his career, whether it starts tomorrow, we’ll see. ... It’s not our first shot we’re looking for, but if the opportunity is there. I don’t want him shooting seven of them, but if he has a chance—wide open one, he’s feeling good— I’m sure he’ll let it go.”

3. Can Maryland get over the hump and finish? The Terps have been in a lot of close games this season, despite the ever-growing list of injuries they’ve faced. However, the team still hasn’t found a way to finish out the close ones.

“There’s a lot of fight in this team,” Turgeon said. “Considering the circumstances, I think we’re pretty confident. I think we believe in each other. It’s just putting a complete game together. ... Playing smarter for 40 minutes is big for us.”