For the first time since early December, Maryland men’s basketball is on a winning streak.
The Terrapins have won back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 29 and Dec. 5, taking down No. 12 Illinois and Division II Wingate last week.
Maryland had four days of rest, four days of practice and the game against Wingate in the nine-day span between Big Ten opponents, allowing the Terps to work on things and rest up as the heart of Big Ten play heats up.
“We got better,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We were able to work on some things, we were able to add some things, just drill them, create the habits you need to create to be successful. Dealing with 18 to 20 year old kids, I don’t know what’s gonna happen at the start of the game, but I hope they’re ready to play.”
Michigan enters Tuesday’s matchup coming off of its first loss of the season, falling to then-No. 23 Minnesota in dominant fashion, 75-57, as star freshman Hunter Dickinson was held to nine points and five rebounds in 23 minutes.
Tipoff between the Terrapins and Wolverines is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday and will be televised on FS1.
What happened last time
Back on New Year’s Eve, a rising Michigan team visited College Park with its sight set on domination.
Local product Hunter Dickinson had been fueling a campaign against the Terrapin program for reportedly not recruiting him hard enough, and it translated onto the floor.
After a chippy first half that resulted in technical fouls for both teams, Michigan used a strong second half to pull out the victory, 84-73.
Dickinson scored 26 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in the victory. He also shot 10-of-11 from the floor and 6-of-7 from the free throw line.
“[Dickinson] was big, physically and just his impact on the game,” Eric Ayala said after the first matchup. “I thought we played to the scouting report that the coaches gave us. Hunter beat us as a team. We’ve got to be better helping each other out on the interior and those big guys.”
Maryland did well to hang with one of the top teams in the country at home, but the loss helped cement the struggles that Mark Turgeon and his team face inside the paint in the Big Ten.
The Terps also managed to shoot just six free throws last time out, scoring on four attempts, and gave up an 18-of-20 performance by the Wolverines which could have closed the gap.
“We learned that we need to continue to play together,” Hakim Hart said. “When we do that, we’re a really good team and we just got to keep playing hard.”
What’s happened since
Each team has played four games and had one postponed since the turn of the new year, but the records tell two different stories.
The Wolverines have faced four ranked teams so far in 2021, starting the year with wins over then-No. 19 Northwestern, then-No. 16 Minnesota and then-No. 9 Wisconsin, each of which came by 19 points or more.
In its first rematch of the season, Michigan faced off with Minnesota for the second time in 10 days. The Golden Gophers were able to get revenge Saturday, taking down the Wolverines in decisive fashion.
For Maryland, the new year has brought a lot of the same questions to the forefront as Turgeon and his team have continued to be exposed inside.
A tough road loss against Indiana, 63-55, after winning the first half proved that the Terps needed more fight. The next contest came at home against then-No. 5 Iowa and provided no chance to bounce back. Local product and 2020 National Player of the Year Luka Garza scored 24 points and recorded seven rebounds as the Hawkeyes ran away with an easy win, 89-67.
The Terps did manage to record their second road win over a ranked team this season over No. 12 Illinois, 66-63, proving that this season isn’t completely lost yet. Masked Darryl Morsell managed to will the team to victory as he exploded for 19 points and four rebounds, finding his footing for the first time since requiring surgery on a bone in his face.
Three things to know
1. Will Maryland be able to corral Hunter Dickinson? Dickinson was by far the biggest struggle for the Terps in the first matchup of these teams, going off for 26 points and 11 rebounds. While Turgeon and his team are unable to add in any new personnel, there are ways to cut down on Dickinson’s presence. Minnesota proved that it is indeed possible to contain Dickinson, so the Terps need to have a new plan and execute.
“Hunter has been off the charts every game,” Turgeon said. “And some days it just doesn’t go your way. We got some things that we’re gonna try. But the thing that makes Michigan what they are is you got a great low-post player in Hunter Dickinson and they got four guys around him that can really play. That reminds me a lot of our team last year.”
2. Did the Terps’ matchup with Wingate really help the team stay in-form? Turgeon noted after Nebraska’s cancellation that he did not want his team to go nine days without a game between Big ten opponents, particularly after a strong showing against No. 12 Illinois. The 100-58 win over the Bulldogs allowed Eric Ayala to rest, starters to build more chemistry and younger players to get another game under their belt. Avoiding a slow start Tuesday is important and would prove that Friday’s contest was indeed important to have.
3. Can Eric Ayala make an impact? Maryland’s starting point guard missed last week’s matchup against Illinois due to a groin injury that was re-aggravated, but will play Tuesday. Ayala sat out Friday’s contest against Wingate to rest and rejoined the team for practice on Sunday. The return of Ayala would be a welcomed addition to bring the Terps back to full strength, but also bring more balance to the guard position.
Turgeon noted that he doesn’t plan to start Ayala and that his minutes Tuesday will be decided by how he feels and plays during the contest. Hart has picked up the lead-guard position the last two games, and figures to be a key player against Michigan.
“Hakim has done a great job,” Morsell said. “Everybody is always hard on him. We see so much in Hakim that this is what we expect of him. I honestly think that he has so much more in him and I think that you all will be able to see it over the coming years.”
Vegas: Michigan -10.5 (Over/Under 141.5)
ESPN BPI: 19.9% chance for Maryland win
KenPom: Michigan 75, Maryland 66
Me: Michigan 78, Maryland 65 (Maryland 21% chance to win)