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Maryland basketball vs. Wisconsin preview (round 2)

The Terps begin a daunting stretch with a visit to Madison.

Maryland basketball Ricky Lindo vs Wisconsin Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

Maryland basketball’s January is complete. The Terps went 7-2 in Big Ten games, moving their conference record to 8-3 and their overall mark to 17-5. Mark Turgeon’s team sits fourth in the league standings and is ranked 21st in the AP poll.

Now comes the hardest stretch of the season.

Maryland plays four of its first five February games on the road. Three of those five are against teams currently in the AP top 25, and the other two opponents on the slate were ranked earlier this month. Each of these games will be tough to win, but the Terps have to pull out some victories if they want to remain in the hunt for a double bye in the conference tournament.

Up first is a rematch with No. 24 Wisconsin, whom the Terps defeated 64-60 in College Park on Jan. 14. Maryland has just one win in Madison since joining the Big Ten, and it took a Melo Trimble buzzer-beater. Friday’s tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on FS1.

(Here’s the preview from the first game, which goes more in-depth on the Badgers’ roster.)

What happened last time

Maryland controlled the first half, playing stifling defense and taking a 33-15 lead into the locker room. But Wisconsin made a second-half charge, turning what was a 21-point deficit into a one-point lead entering the final minute. Maryland came up clutch, though, as Anthony Cowan Jr. drilled a go-ahead three (which looked a lot like Trimble’s shot three years earlier) and the Badgers couldn’t connect from long range late.

Both teams are usually led by dominant centers; Maryland has Bruno Fernando and Wisconsin has Ethan Happ. But both were limited due to foul trouble in this game, and neither produced like usual. They finished with 10 points each and were their teams’ fourth-leading scorers. Happ had eight boards to Fernando’s four. Happ still played 31 minutes, but Fernando’s 22 were his fewest since November.

Cowan carried the scoring load for Maryland, especially in the second half. He notched 19 of his 21 points after halftime, making three of Maryland’s five (!) second-half field goals and going 11-of-13 at the foul line. Wisconsin forward Nate Reuvers poured in 18 points after the break to lead the Badgers’ charge, but missed two long balls late to swing the game.

What’s happened since

The win was Maryland’s sixth straight, and the Terps extended the streak to seven with a road victory over Ohio State on Jan. 18. But after that came back-to-back double-digit defeats, with one that was somewhat expected (a 69-55 loss at Michigan State) and one stunner (a 78-67 loss to Illinois in New York). Maryland rebounded with a convincing win over Northwestern on Tuesday night. That was the Terps’ first home contest in 15 days and its last for another 14.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, hasn’t lost since this matchup. After suffering their fourth loss in five games, the Badgers are a convincing 4-0. They upset then-No. 2 (and previously undefeated) Michigan at home by 10, and have since beaten Illinois by 12, Northwestern by 16 and Nebraska by 11. Happ was absolutely dominant against the Wolverines, putting up 26 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Wisconsin is now 7-3 in the Big Ten, half a game behind Maryland for fourth place.

Three things to watch

1. How does the big man matchup shake out? It’s hard to imagine both Fernando and Happ taking backseats in this game. Who can stay on the floor longer, and who wins the one-on-one matchups between them? And just as importantly, who stands out more between Reuvers and Jalen Smith? After a meeting where neither team got much going inside, look for both squads to establish a post presence.

2. Can the Terps handle another daunting road environment? Maryland already has three Big Ten road wins this season—Rutgers, Minnesota and Ohio State—but Wisconsin would be its most impressive win yet, even without mentioning the Terps’ drought playing at ranked teams. The Badgers have lost twice in this building, but the Kohl Center crowd can get going, especially if Wisconsin goes on a run.

3. Are turnovers a factor? In the first matchup, Wisconsin committed 10 giveaways to Maryland’s eight, and the Terps led 13-11 in points off turnovers. Both teams struggle to force turnovers (Maryland is 330th in defensive turnover rate; Wisconsin is 243rd). But the Terps have had on-and-off bouts with the turnover bug all season. In just the last two games, they’ve committed 21 in an upset loss and 11 in an easy win. Even Northwestern held a 15-6 advantage in points off turnovers, and it’ll be harder to overcome such a gap in this one.


KenPom: Wisconsin 68, Maryland 62

Me: Wisconsin 69, Maryland 65