This story has been updated.
Maryland basketball returns to Xfinity Center for its penultimate home game Sunday against No. 9 Michigan. The Terps are coming off their worst game of the season, starting slow and never getting going in a 78-61 road loss at Penn State. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a double-digit lead early, and led by more than 20 points for most of the second half.
The loss was a missed opportunity for Maryland to get closer to locking up a double bye in the Big Ten tournament, with both Wisconsin and Iowa losing on the road the night before. The Terps and Badgers remain tied in the loss column with six losses, and another slip-up for either team will likely be the difference between a Thursday or Friday start at the United Center in two weeks.
Tipoff is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. ET on CBS, in what is sure to be an electric atmosphere. The game was announced as a sellout crowd last week, and will feature a halftime performance from the one and only Red Panda.
What happened last time
Both teams met for the first time two weeks ago, with Maryland coming off a home win against then-No. 12 Purdue and Michigan coming off a loss at Penn State. The Wolverines played like a team with something to prove, feasting off early Terps turnovers and poor transition defense to build a 23-8 lead in the first half.
Maryland used solid halfcourt defense to cut the lead to 27-18 by halftime, then pulled within three with 10:21 to go. But Michigan scored five straight points to push the lead back to eight and sealed the game for good when Ignas Brazdeikis hit a three that gave Michigan a 50-42 lead following an missed layup by Anthony Cowan Jr. The Wolverines would go on to win, 65-52.
What’s happened since
Both teams have gone 2-1 since the first matchup, but enter this game coming off completely different results. While Maryland is coming off its worst loss of the season, Michigan’s 82-53 win over Nebraska Thursday night was its highest margin of victory this year, The Wolverines shot 55 percent of the field and hit 12 of 22 three-point attempts, including a ridiculous 6-for-8 from beyond the arc in the first half.
However, senior Charles Matthews suffered a right ankle injury last weekend against Michigan State, and the game against the Cornhuskers. ESPN’s Molly McGrath reported before the game that Matthews has “significant” ligament damage in his right ankle, but a Michigan spokesperson texted beat reporters that the word “significant” is an exaggeration and he’s day-to-day. The team has not given an update on Matthews’s injury, so we probably won’t know his status until right before tipoff.
Three things to watch
1. How does Maryland respond? The good news about Wednesday’s loss is Maryland can’t play much worse. The Terps were a turnover machine, were out-toughed and out-hustled and couldn’t hit a shot from the perimeter. Maryland has gone 6-1 coming off a loss this year, and shouldn’t have any trouble getting up to play in front of what should be the best crowd of the season.
2. Can Maryland do anything about the turnovers? The Terps had 16 turnovers compared to Michigan’s six in the first matchup, the glaring difference in a game where both teams had similar offensive performances otherwise. Maryland’s had at least 15 turnovers in all three games since, and Penn State scored 26 points off 17 giveaways. With just two games remaining before the postseason, the Terps will look to make a change they haven’t been able to make all season.
3. Will Charles Matthews play? The senior set the tone in the first matchup, dominating his matchup with Darryl Morsell early and igniting the crowd with transition dunks. Michigan won easily without him at home against a fading Nebraska team, but will be playing in a completely different environment. While the Wolverines have shown more depth of late, their primary rotation rotation has been just seven players deep, so depth could be an issue if they get into foul trouble.
We’ve updated this story from some quotes of Maryland’s media availability Saturday afternoon.
Freshman guard Aaron Wiggins on lessons learned from the first matchup:
“Just being locked in defensively. We had a bad transition game at Michigan, defensively we weren’t getting back, weren’t talking and weren’t matched up with our guys. That’s something we’ve put a big emphasis on the past few games just staying locked in and knowing who were guarded and where each other (are) on the court.”
Sophomore guard Darryl Morsell on what causes a slow start:
“Just lack of focus, being young. This team’s real young. Sometimes it’s tough to understand that every game in the Big Ten counts. you can’t overlook anybody. So we’re focused on taking one game at a time and focused on making sure we come out with a great start and try to get this building behind us.”
Head coach Mark Turgeon on Matthews’ injury and whether Michigan not having a true 4 puts pressure on the defense:
”We’ll see. I don’t know who’s going to play for them tomorrow, we’ll know it before it starts. They started a bigger lineup last game with (Isaiah) Livers at the 4, which is a better matchup for Jalen (Smith)...But they’re big across the board...they’re going to create matchup problems, but we’ll have it on the other end too.”
KenPom: Michigan 65, Maryland 64
Me: Michigan 71, Maryland 67