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After 'Getting Better' Against Syracuse, Terps Ready For Purdue

December 1, 2017
The Maryland men's basketball team was 20-2 overall and 8-1 in the Big Ten last February when it entered its lone matchup against Purdue. The Terps held a 52-40 lead during the second half of the game, but the Boilermakers closed the gap after Maryland failed to build on its lead and Purdue won the game, 73-72.

The Terps went on to lose seven of their final 11 games, while the Boilermakers went on to win the Big Ten regular-season title.

"We really prepared a lot for that game and actually had a really great record up until that game, and we were actually up [12] at one moment," junior forward Ivan Bender said Nov. 30. "I don't know how many minutes were to go to end the game, but it was really disappointing, and I feel like it was like low point in our season. But we have to bounce back. We have to play with poise and just remember what happened last year and be ready."

Maryland will face Purdue at 7 p.m. Dec. 1 under different circumstances than last year; every school in the Big Ten is playing two conference games in early December this year. It'll allow the Big Ten to end the regular season earlier so the conference tournament can be held at Madison Square Garden in New York from Feb. 28-March 4, 2018. The Big East tournament is being played at the Garden one week later, the usual weekend of the Big Ten tournament.

And instead of Maryland playing Purdue with a seven-game winning streak at its back like it did last year, the Terps have lost two of their past three games, both by just two points. Maryland is coming off a 72-70 loss to Syracuse Nov. 27, its last chance at a resume-building nonconference win. But it was certainly a better showing than the Terps had during their 63-61 loss to St. Bonaventure Nov. 24, as sophomore Kevin Huerter had a big game and Maryland did some nice things against Syracuse's 2-3 zone. 
 
"I felt that way during the second half, that we were getting better as a team," Terps head coach Mark Turgeon said. "The adjustments we were making, guys were adjusting quicker. We were better with the ball until the last minute, made some big-time shots -- mostly Huerter. So we did a lot of nice things. And really, in tight games, you've got to do a lot of things well to win them down the stretch. I counted six free throws that we missed down the stretch -- I count a front end of a one-and-one as two -- … and that's not counting when I had Anthony [Cowan] miss on purpose."

Purdue (6-2, ranked 12th on kenpom.com, a college basketball analytics site) is coming off wins against Arizona and Louisville, both of which are part of KenPom's top 25. The Boilermakers have four players -- Carsen Edwards, Dakota Mathias, Vincent Edwards and Isaac Haas -- averaging double digits in scoring, and a fifth, P.J. Thomson, averaging barely fewer than 10 points per game.

Haas, a 7-foot-2, 290-pound senior averaging 13.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, has caught the attention of Terrapin big men who have faced him before. Maryland senior center Michal Cekovsky said he jokes with Bender that Haas a "dentist" for the physical center's propensity to use his elbows in a way that endangers one's teeth. Haas isn't the only massive Boilermaker who will play; his backup is 7-foot-3, 250-pound redshirt freshman Matt Haarms.

Carsen Edwards, Purdue's leading scorer at 17.4 points per game, played with Huerter this summer during the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Egypt. Their U.S. squad won the bronze medal. Edwards, according to Huerter, "plays with a scorer's mentality" and "any time he catches it -- really anywhere on the court -- we know he's going to be aggressive."

Purdue, led by Mathias and Thompson, have shot 41.3 percent from 3-point range. With threats inside and outside, the Boilermakers rank 13th in the country in adjusted offense on KenPom.

"They're way ahead of us. They had a month together this summer, and they've got their February playbook in, and I feel like we're still in September because we've been zoned so much lately," Turgeon said. "It's a huge challenge for us because I just think they had a month together this summer, every day practicing, playing games. And it shows in all the stuff they're running."

NOTES: Cekovsky said he got hit in the mouth against St. Bonaventure, then again in the same spot against Syracuse and lost a front tooth in the process. He got some dental work done when he got back to College Park, Md. "It's OK. I'm good," Cekovsky said. ...  Huerter hit several 3-pointers from NBA range (and then some) against Syracuse. He was asked Nov. 30 how far his range extends, but didn't know an exact distance. "I think any player, your range is as far as you can shoot without changing your shot," Huerter said. ... Maryland sophomore forward Justin Jackson is shooting 25 percent from 3-point range so far this year after shooting 43.8 percent from deep last year. "The biggest thing with Justin is we just need him to play really confident, and he is getting better: he's starting to find his shot a little bit more," Huerter said.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox