After a blowout loss to Michigan Feb. 24, the Maryland men's basketball squad held a team meeting Feb. 26 that helped lead to two quality days of practice ahead of the Big Ten Tournament, according to Terps guards Anthony Cowan Jr. and Darryl Morsell.
"We had a meeting. I think it went really well," Cowan said Feb. 27. "Me and Coach [Mark Turgeon] just told us that we've still got a lot to play for, so he wouldn't allow anyone to just put their head down and quit. He made a good statement: 'If you quit now, you're going to quit in life when it gets tough.' I think the guys really came in, and practice, like I said, went really well."
Maryland's 85-61 loss to Michigan
dropped the Terps to 19-12 overall and 8-10 in the Big Ten, the first time they've had a losing mark in the conference during regular-season play since joining the league ahead of the 2014-15 season. The Wolverines went 11-for-19 from 3-point range during the first half and ended the half on a 43-12 run, effectively deciding the game.
What may have been most concerning for Maryland was how it closed out the half. Michigan had a 19-point lead with about five minutes to go in the half, and a Terps spurt could've put them in striking distance heading into the locker room. Instead, Maryland's energy on the defensive end sagged, which showed up in its transition defense, rotations and 3-point closeouts. The Wolverines entered the locker room up 30.
The Terps had Feb. 25 off but talked with one another before hitting the practice floor Feb. 26.
"We're just trying to stick together," Morsell said. "We've got the Big Ten Tournament coming up. We just all talked to each other, told each other to keep our heads up and we're just moving on."
He added: "I didn't say much. It was more the older guys, more the team leaders -- Anthony, Kevin [Huerter]. Everybody said stuff, but it was more of the older guys who have been here and been through more stuff."
The loss Feb. 4 dropped Wisconsin to 3-9 in the Big Ten, but the Badgers rallied to win four of their next six games, including one against No. 8 Purdue. Though Wisconsin isn't playing the efficient brand offensive basketball it has in years past, the Badgers do have junior center Ethan Happ -- who made the media's All-Big Ten first team by averaging 17.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game -- and guard Brad Davison, who earned a spot on the conference's all-freshman team by averaging 12.1 points per game and shooting 36.9 percent from 3-point range.
Maryland almost certainly needs to win the Big Ten Tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament, which would mean winning four games in four days March 1-4. Turgeon said he'll install a game plan for the Badgers Feb. 28, but preferred to "work on Maryland" and create competition Feb. 26-27.
"I was just trying to become a deeper team," Turgeon said. "I tried to give everybody equal opportunity. I treated it was like the first day of practice. And that's kind of what we did. I want everybody to think they're going to have a chance to help us win. We can't play six players and win four games if we do get to that point. So we need to be deep on Thursday to have a chance. It was kind of like starting over -- shell drill, all that stuff to just kind of get us ready for the games."
The shell drill, aimed at improving defensive rotations, "really helped us," according to Cowan, who noted the Terps played four-on-four during the drill and "you had to find a way to win with no coaches involved." Morsell said the team does the shell drill "all the time, but I think this week it was amped up more."
Morsell was asked whether the team meeting carried over to practice in a positive way.
"Oh yeah," Morsell said. "Like I said, this whole week, we've been competitive. We've been focusing on ourselves, just improving ourselves every day, trying to continue to be competitive and stuff like that. So, yeah, I think it definitely carried over to practice."
Cowan was named third-team All-Big Ten
and to the conference's all-defensive team Feb. 26. Turgeon commented on his point guard's season Feb. 27. "He's much more complete than he was," Turgeon said. "His assists are up, his turnovers are down, shooting the ball better. He's just a more complete player. He's really challenged himself defensively. It's a lot on his plate. He has to play well every game for us to have a chance." … Turgeon said on a Big Ten teleconference Feb. 26 that the blowout loss to Michigan "kind of woke us up." Morsell was asked about that Feb. 27. "I wouldn't say that we needed it, but it definitely was a wakeup call. If we don't come out every day playing hard and give it our all from the beginning, that's what can happen," Morsell said.