After dropping its first conference road game of the season against Purdue on Christmas Day, Maryland men’s basketball will continue westward to take on No. 6 Wisconsin Monday night.
Looking completely overmatched against their first two Power Five opponents of the season, the Terps’ contest against the Boilermakers came all the way down to the wire. Battling back from a 15-point deficit, Maryland managed to tie things up late, but failed to execute offensively down the stretch to fall to 0-2 in the Big Ten this season.
“We definitely grew stronger after that [Purdue] game,” junior forward Jairus Hamilton said. “We feel that we’re a whole better team than we thought we were before and we can even get to a higher level than we’ve even seen before. And so I think that we just really reconnected, got more back together after this last game, and I feel we’re gonna be even more of a stronger team.”
Instead of traveling back to College Park, Maryland (5-3, 0-2 Big Ten) stayed on the road and went straight to Wisconsin on Saturday to prepare to face one of the hottest teams in college basketball, looking for its first win in Madison since 2016. The Terps have also lost two of their last three matchups with the Badgers, allowing for Wisconsin to take 10-6 lead in the all-time series between the two programs.
“It’s different, it’s different even for us [seniors],” senior guard Reese Mona said of the extended road trip. “We haven’t had too many road trips like this ... [we’re] just kind of making sure everyone’s getting the right sleep, eating right at the breakfasts and at each meal, and just making sure guys are prepared.”
The game is set to tip-off at 7 p.m., with the game being televised on Fox Sports 1.
No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers (8-1, 2-0 Big Ten)
2019-20 record: 21-10, 14-6 Big Ten
Head coach Greg Gard has maintained Wisconsin’s reputation as one of college basketball’s premier programs in his six seasons since taking over for Bo Ryan. Gard earned 2020 Big Ten Coach of the Year honors last year, leading his team to a share of the conference regular season title alongside Maryland and Michigan State.
Returning each member of his starting five from a season ago as well, Gard is in position to lead the Badgers yet another strong season. The team is off to one of its better starts to a season under Gard, having defeated two ranked opponents in Michigan State and Louisville with its only loss coming on a last-second tip-in against Marquette.
Players to Know
1. D’Mitrik Trice, redshirt senior guard, 6-foot, 184 lbs., No. 0 — Trice has been a reliable option for Gard in the backcourt since his arrival in 2016, now on pace to cap off his Badger career with his most productive season yet. Through nine games, Trice has averaged a career-high 13.0 points per game, doing so thanks to his ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc at an efficient clip (41.5%).
Trice also leads his team in total assists this season (29), with a majority of Wisconsins’s offensive possessions running through the 24-year-old guard.
2. Micah Potter, redshirt senior forward, 6-foot-10, 248 lbs, No. 11 — Having transferred to the program from Ohio State prior to the start of last season, Potter’s versatile skillset has made him a perfect fit for Wisconsin’s style of play. Potter has improved upon his 2019-20 10.1 points per game scoring average to 13.1 this season, and he’s been lights out from three-point range, boasting a 50% clip beyond the arc.
He’s also more than capable of controlling the glass night in and night out, leading the Badgers in rebounds per game at 7.1
3. Brad Davison, senior guard, 6-foot-4, 202 lbs., No. 34 — Davison is Wisconsin’s clear-cut glue guy, doing a little bit of everything on either end of the floor to establish himself as a team leader. Averaging 11.2 points per game this season, Davison ranks atop the team in free throw percentage (88.2%), is tied for the most total steals (10), and is second on the team in total assists (24).
Whether it’s drawing charges on one end or hitting difficult shots on the other, Davison leaves his mark on every game he takes part in.
Three-point shooting. Wisconsin has been one of the best three-point shooting teams in the nation this season, utilizing a host of long-range shooters across multiple positions each time down the floor. Between Trice (41.5%, Potter (50%), Davison (43.6%), and Nate Reuvers (42.9%), the Badgers have shot 41.8% as a team from beyond the arc this season, ranking 13th in the nation.
Creating turnovers. It wasn’t easy finding many weaknesses in this year’s Wisconsin squad, because there aren’t many. They’re an experienced, cohesive unit that knows exactly what style of basketball it wants to play.
However, though the Badgers are a solid defensive team, they don’t necessarily force a lot of turnovers. Wisconsin has generated just 49 total steals this season, which ranks 145th in Division I, and has forced the third-least turnovers out of any team in the Big Ten.
Three Things to Watch
1. Can the Terps defend the three-point line? In their previous contest against Purdue, Maryland was lit up from beyond the arc, conceding seven three-point field goals in the first half against a middle of the pack three-point shooting team. Now facing one of the best teams in the nation in that regard, the Terps perimeter defenders and rotations will need to be at their best.
“It’s all fixable stuff,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We know this team can really shoot it, hopefully we’ll be a little bit better on transition defense, hopefully we’ll be a little bit better getting to the shooters.”
2. Can Maryland begin its difficult stretch on a strong note? Maryland’s game against the Badgers marks the beginning of what will likely be the most difficult run of games the team will face this season.
Following Monday’s contest, the Terps are set to face No. 19 Michigan, Indiana, No. 4 Iowa, and No. 18 Illinois. Maryland’s murderers row of opponents could potentially put it below .500 for the first time since 2013, with its performance during this upcoming stretch set to be a defining moment for their season.
“We don’t think about it, you know, we’re thinking about Wisconsin,” Turgeon said of the upcoming stretch. “I know everybody looks ahead, maybe the players have, but we don’t talk that way. We’re at a point with this team where we’re just trying to get better every day and we’re trying to figure it out.”
3. Is Darryl Morsell’s shooting touch back? The senior guard endured a tough scoring drought over Maryland’s three games prior to the Purdue matchup, shooting a combined 8-of-34 from the field and 0-for-8 from deep after being one of the team’s leading scorers earlier this season. Turgeon elected to bring him off the bench against the Boilermakers on Friday, allowing for Morsell to score 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting and 1-of-2 from beyond the arc, though he missed two free throws at the end of the game that could have tied it.
The Terps are at their best when Morsell is getting it done on both ends of the floor, so the team can only hope seeing the ball go through the cylinder has given him the confidence he needs to make a difference Monday night.
Vegas: Wisconsin -9.5
ESPN BPI: Wisconsin 81.3% chance to win
KenPom: Wisconsin 72, Maryland 63 (Wisconsin 80% chance to win)
Me: Wisconsin 77, Maryland 59
* Editors Note: This article was updated with Wisconsin ranked as No. 6 following the release of the AP Top 25 Monday.