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Five Takeaways From The Terps' 69-61 Loss To Wisconsin

February 2, 2019
If college basketball games were 35 minutes long, the No. 21 Maryland men’s basketball team would be celebrating a hard-fought victory on the road against No. 24 Wisconsin. But unfortunately, the final five minutes played out as poorly as one could imagine for head coach Mark Turgeon’s team as the Badgers (16-6, 8-3 Big Ten) used a 15-6 run over the final 4:59 to win their fifth straight game and hand Maryland a 69-61 defeat.

The Terps drop to 17-6 overall and 8-4 in the Big Ten, capping off a brutal stretch of five road games in six contests. The teams played 18 days ago -- a 64-60 win Jan. 14 in College Park, Md. -- but despite holding a lead for most of the game the Terps couldn't sweep the season series.

Here are five impressions of the game:

1. The Badgers got their revenge.

In the first matchup, Maryland used hot shooting in the first half to build an 18-point halftime lead, which stretched to as many as 21 before Wisconsin’s shooters woke up. The Badgers hit 11 3-pointers after halftime -- including four from forward Nate Reuvers -- to come all the way back and take a lead on a Brad Davison three with 2:01 left in the game. Thanks to a clutch 3-pointer by junior guard Anthony Cowan, Maryland was able to pull out the win.

Eighteen days later, the Terps once again got off to a fast start, hitting 6 of 10 3-pointers in the first half, including three from freshman guard Eric Ayala, who had 13 points by halftime. He finished with 18 for the game, two off his career high (20, vs. Marshall Nov. 23).  

The five-point halftime lead Feb. 1 was much smaller than it was at Xfinity Center, but Maryland played well, weathering early foul trouble by sophomore center Bruno Fernando and going on a 10-4 scoring run while Cowan was on the bench and another 8-2 run before halftime.

But Davison would not be denied in the rematch, scoring a game-high 21 points -- 14 in the second half -- to put Maryland away. The sophomore made two huge 3-pointers in the span of 38 seconds to turn a four-point deficit into a 54-52 lead, which the Badgers would momentarily lose on a layup by Fernando before outscoring the Terps by nine in the final five minutes to seal the win.

Fernando finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, several times showing his strength in the paint, muscling past forward Ethan Happ for high percentage shots.

Happ bounced back from the season-low 10 points he had Jan. 14 with 18 points and could have had more if he had improved his 6-of-12 shooting from the line.  

Aleem Ford, who averages 2.9 points per game, hit two threes 21 seconds apart to key the Badgers' late run. He finished with 10 points. Reuvers, who fouled out with 3:25 remaining finished with zero points.

2. Mark Turgeon is now 0-18 against ranked opponents on the road.

Since coming to Maryland from Texas A&M before the 2011-12 season, Turgeon has yet to defeat a ranked road opponent during his 8-year tenure. A stat that, to his credit, ignores neutral court wins, but still represents a significant flaw in his otherwise strong coaching resume.

Even at Xfinity Center, the Terps have played poorly against ranked teams. Their victory against then-No. 24 Nebraska Jan. 2 was the first win against any ranked team since 2016.

For much of this game, it appeared he might finally break that streak as the Terps hung tough against Wisconsin, holding a lead or tie for nearly 30 consecutive game minutes that spanned from the 15:24 mark in the first half to 6:12 remaining in the second. But Wisconsin used six 3-pointers in the second half and some timely turnovers and missed free throws by the Terps late to swing the game.

Maryland will have another opportunity to pick up a road win against No. 5 Michigan Feb. 16.

3. The Terps had their worst performance at the line of the season.

Though the Terps shot well from 3-point range all game, the best free throw shooting team in the Big Ten (75.6 percent) was uncharacteristically poor from the line. They had one attempt -- a miss by freshman forward Jalen Smith -- at halftime, likely a result of their high volume of shots from outside.

But down the stretch, the Terps missed four free throws as Wisconsin was making their run, including a miss on the front-end of a one-and-one by Smith and another by the usually automatic Cowan (85.5 percent on the season).

Maryland finished 3-of-8 from the line. Wisconsin was 14-of-23.

4. Turgeon's zone worked again.

Maryland's worst nightmare came to life early in the second half. Fernando picked up a pair of fouls on Happ in the span of 26 seconds, sending him to the bench with three personals with 17:10 to play. Eight seconds later Smith was hit with his third foul, also on Happ, forcing freshman forward Ricky Lindo Jr. and little-used senior center Ivan Bender to check into the game.  

With the Terps' two best big men on the bench and the lead dwindling, Turgeon switched to a 2-3 zone out of the under-16 media timeout. After scoring nine points during the first 3:50 of the second half to tie the game at 40, the Badgers managed just eight points during the next eight minutes and the Terps were able to survive more than five minutes with Fernando and Smith on the bench.

Turgeon uses zones sparingly. He used a 3-2 zone out of desperation during a Jan. 8 win against Minnesota. The tactic appeared far more intentional in this game and could be a strategy moving forward if his two star big men get into foul trouble in a future game.

5. Among their eight remaining opponents, the Terps face just two new teams and are 4-1 against the rest. 

The bad news for Maryland is they face No. 5 Michigan twice, in Ann Arbor, Mich., Feb. 16 and at home March 3, and the Terps visit a feisty Iowa team Feb. 19. All three games will be exceedingly difficult to win. Michigan has lost just twice all season and Iowa just upset the Wolverines in Iowa City, Iowa, Feb. 1. But if the Terps can play up to their potential, they are more than capable of beating both teams.

The better news is that they went 4-1 against rest of their schedule early this season. Their games include a visit to Nebraska Feb. 6 (won 74-72, Jan. 2), home games against Purdue Feb. 12 (lost, 62-60, at Purdue Dec. 6) and Ohio State Feb. 23 (won in Columbus, 75-61, Jan. 18), a final road game in Happy Valley against Penn State Feb. 27 (won, 66-59, Dec. 1 at home) and the season finale against Minnesota March 8 (won at Minnesota Jan. 8, 82-67).

The Wisconsin game marks the (literal) back nine of Maryland's schedule. With eight conference wins already in the bag -- the same number they tallied all of last season -- the Terps are still well-positioned for a high finish in the Big Ten regular season standings.

This has been updated.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox