For the first time in seemingly ever, Maryland men’s basketball is coming off a loss.
The Terps — who dropped to No. 9 in the latest AP Top 25 poll Monday — faced their first defeat in over a month Sunday, falling 79-72 to then-No. 25 Ohio State in Columbus (the Buckeyes have since risen to No. 23).
“We have a motto: don’t get too high, don’t get too low,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We’re the exact same team today — we would have won the game as if we lost it. We got two good days of preparation. ... We know this one is going to be just as hard, and Minnesota needs it and all that stuff. Our guys have responded well.”
Maryland isn’t a stranger to losing, as the team had lost four games already on the year before this last one. But this most recent performance was surprising for a specific reason — both Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith struggled.
The dynamic duo — and Turgeon’s team as a whole — will get an opportunity to bounce back Wednesday, as they’re going on the road to face Minnesota. The Golden Gophers currently sit in 10th place in the conference, but they may be better than their record indicates — at least according to their No. 31 KenPom ranking.
Wednesday’s game is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. ET and can be watched on the Big Ten Network.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (13-13, 7-9 Big Ten)
2018-19 record: 22-14 (9-11 Big Ten)
Head coach Richard Pitino is in his seventh season in charge in Minneapolis, and he’s coming off his second NCAA Tournament appearance — the Golden Gophers lost in the second round to Michigan State after upsetting Louisville. While he’ll likely always be associated with his father first, Pitino has done a successful job in rebuilding the Minnesota program on his own. Before coming to the Big Ten with the Golden Gophers, Pitino coached for one season at Florida International University.
Players to know
Daniel Oturu, sophomore center, 6’10, 240 lbs, No. 25. Oturu made his mark as a freshman, starting 31 games while finishing third on the team in scoring (10.8 points per game), second in rebounding (7.0) and first in blocks (1.3). But with the departure of Amir Coffey and Jordan Murphy, Oturu has taken control of the team. He’s currently second in the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 19.7 points per game while shooting 57.1 percent, which also ranks second. And Oturu leads the conference in rebounding with 11.4 boards per contest, ranking seventh in the nation.
“He’s a warrior. His length, his size, he’s got great face-up game,” Turgeon said. “Aggressive on the low post, good passer, terrific rebounder. I think he’s being mentioned in the lottery — or almost the lottery — in the NBA. It’s like every game, somebody has a really, really, really good player.”
Marcus Carr, redshirt sophomore guard, 6’2, 195 lbs, No. 5. Carr began his collegiate career over at Pittsburgh, starting for the vast majority of the season and leading the team in assists and steals. But despite ample playing time and an impressive level of success as a freshman, he opted to transfer away from Pitt and join Minnesota. He sat out last year as a result, but in his first action as a Golden Gopher, Carr has been terrific. He’s currently averaging 15.4 points and 6.7 assists per game, the latter of which ranks second in the Big Ten and ninth in the nation.
Gabe Kalscheur, sophomore guard, 6’4, 200 lbs, No. 22. A year ago as a freshman, Kalscheur started every single game for Minnesota. He averaged 10.0 points per contest while shooting a remarkable 41 percent from beyond the arc, and it wasn’t for a lack of volume — two-thirds of his overall attempts were on three-pointers. Kalscheur’s efficiency is a touchdown this year — he’s making 33 percent of his threes — but he’s now up to 11.5 points a game while averaging more than a steal a night.
Defense. Minnesota, like most of the Big Ten, has been carried by its defense so far this season. Per KenPom, the Golden Gophers rank 36th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, mostly due to their 45.6 opponent effective field goal percentage (29th).
While it’s pretty average when it comes to three-point defense, Minnesota has been stellar in contesting shots inside the arc; the Golden Gophers rank 33rd in the country, holding the opposition to just 44.7 percent on two-point attempts.
Shooting. Since the Golden Gophers don’t turn the ball over often — just 17.1 percent — they rank 45th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency (109.8). But when it gets sloppy, Minnesota’s offense has struggled due to poor shooting. The Golden Gophers’ effective field goal percentage (48.4) ranks 231st, their two-point percentage (48.6) ranks 204th, and their three-point percentage (32.0) ranks 236th.
Three things to watch
1. How does Maryland respond to the loss? For the first time in a long time, the Terps aren’t coming into a game having won their last. On the year, Maryland has lost four games, and both came in back-to-back sets. And that’s certainly a possibility here, especially with it being taken into account that the Golden Gophers are a solid 10-4 at Williams Arena.
“We’re just ready to come back, bounce back tomorrow,” Aaron Wiggins said. “Locking into our gameplan, had a good practice today — guarded well, competed — so I think we’re ready to go.”
2. Will the Terps’ dynamic duo bounce back? Senior point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. turned in one of his worst performances of the season Sunday against Ohio State; he went just 1-of-4 from the field — though he got to the line often — and wound up fouling out late just when the team needed him most. And sophomore big Jalen Smith, who’s been Maryland’s best player this season, struggled to get going against Kaleb Wesson down low.
The pair have been the driving force behind the team’s success this season, and when both fail in the same game, the Terps have often lost. They’ll need to get back to their mean production if Maryland is to get a win on the road in Minneapolis.
“Just come out focused — more focused, more than anything,” Cowan said about a bounce back performance against Minnesota. “We’ve got a lot more games, but we’ve got to focus on this Minnesota game. They’re a really good team that’s playing well — came off a big win against Northwestern. And they play really well in their building.”
3. Does Mark Turgeon continue to change the rotation? Against Ohio State, the Terps head coach made some interesting decisions. Hakim Hart, who hadn’t played in over a month, saw his most minutes since Dec. 4 against Notre Dame. And Chol Marial played his most game action since his collegiate debut against Bryant on Dec. 29. The tradeoff was a combined two minutes for Ricky Lindo Jr. and Serrel Smith Jr., staples in the rotation last year and at points this year.
Vegas: Minnesota -1.5, O/U 133 (as of Tuesday night)
ESPN BPI: Maryland 47.9% chance to win
KenPom: Minnesota 66, Maryland 65 (Maryland 49% chance to win)
Me: Maryland 73, Minnesota 70