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Maryland men's basketball vs. Wisconsin preview

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The Terps look for their sixth straight win against a pesky Badgers team.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland men’s basketball is still unbeaten in 2019, and will bring a five-game winning streak into the back half of a two-game homestand on Monday. Wisconsin comes to town for its first meeting since knocking the Terps out of last season’s Big Ten tournament.

Head coach Mark Turgeon has his young guys rolling, fresh off a second straight come-from-behind win over No. 22 Indiana on Saturday. Anthony Cowan Jr. and Bruno Fernando delivered as the team’s veterans, pushing the Terps to victory. Cowan finished with 24 points, seven assists and five rebounds, while Fernando finished grabbed his ninth double-double with a career-high 25 points and 13 rebounds.

Wisconsin has lost three of its last four, including an overtime loss to Purdue on Friday. The Badgers are 1-2 in the new year, also falling to Minnesota and beating Penn State in that span.

Maryland’s last win pushed it up to No. 20 in the lastest NET rankings, which replaced RPI this season, while Wisconsin sits at No. 22. The Terps are in for another close game, and this one will get underway Monday night at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

Wisconsin Badgers (11-5, 3-2 Big Ten)

2017-18 record: 15-18, 7-11

Head coach Greg Gard has missed the last two NCAA Tournaments after making his first two as head coach. He’s in just his third full season as a head coach since taking over for Bo Ryan in the middle of the 2015-16 season. He dealt with major injuries to role players last season, but his team has stayed healthy so far this year.

Players to know

Ethan Happ, RS senior, forward, 6’10/237, No. 22. Happ is one of just three players in the conference averaging a double-double, along with Fernando and Jordan Murphy, and is also second in scoring and third in assists. The senior is averaging 20 points, 10.5 boards and 4.8 assists per game, and is No. 2 in KenPom’s Player of the Year standings. Happ redshirted in 2014-15, making him the lone remaining member from the National runner-ups.

D’Mitrik Trice, RS sophomore, guard, 6’0/187, No. 0. Trice has bounced back from injury as the team’s second-leading scorer and assist man, with 14.4 points and 2.7 assists. He was granted a medical redshirt after only suiting up in 10 games last season before undergoing surgery on his right foot. Trice is also the Badgers’ top marksman, nailing 47.3 percent of his team-high 5.8 three-point attempts.

Brad Davison, sophomore, guard, 6’3/206, No. 34. Davison was fairly impressive as a freshman, playing through a dislocated shoulder to finish as the team’s second-best scorer. Now healthy after reconstructive surgery on his left shoulder, the sophomore is third in scoring and second on the team in three point percentage. He’s nailing 44.8 of his 3.6 three point attempts, up from 35.5 percent on more (5.1) attempts from deep. Davison’s a hassle on both ends, as he also averages a team-high 1.3 steals and is a walking charge call.

Strength

Three-point shooting. Wisconsin has been very efficient from deep, hitting 39.4 of its attempts behind the arc. That mark ranks 16th in the nation, and the Badgers have carried it into conference play. Wisconsin has hit 38 percent of its longball attempts over five conference games, which is the best mark in the Big Ten, while taking the 10th-most attempts.

Weakness

Free throws. While the Badgers have excelled behind the three-point line, they have struggled both getting to and converting at the charity stripe. Wisconsin ranks No. 320 in free-throw attempts and has hit just 66.5 percent of its foul shots. In conference play, the Badgers are next-to-last in attempts and makes and are dead last with a 54.4 percent conversion rate.

Three things to watch

1. Will Maryland start slow again? Until it proves otherwise, this is a Maryland team that starts slow. The Terps trailed by as much as 14 in the first half against the Hoosiers and needed a 16-0 run at the start of the second half to take its first lead of the game. It hasn’t hurt them recently, but counting on second-half comebacks is not a winning strategy in the Big Ten. To knock the trend, Maryland will have to start limiting the early turnovers, which is something it has not done recently.

2. Does Jalen Smith bounce back? After seemingly finding his stride, the freshman struggled against the Hoosiers. He’ll likely be matched up with the 6’11, 240-pound sophomore Nate Reuvers, who posts a team-high 1.8 blocks per game. If Smith is able to pick his spots and finish some of the bunnies that didn’t fall against Indiana, that two point finish should be an anomaly.

3. Bruno Fernando vs. Ethan Happ. Happ is one of the best players in the country and probably the best center in the conference. However, Fernando’s play this season definitely has him surging towards contention for the latter. Happ has what feels like a million years at Wisconsin under his belt, and his experience got the best of Fernando last season. But Fernando’s grown nearly as much as any player in the country and should make this a tough matchup.

Predictions

KenPom: Maryland 69, Wisconsin 67

Me: Maryland 75, Wisconsin 68