No. 25 Maryland goes on road to Iowa as Big Ten leader

With one-third of Big Ten play in the books, a somewhat unlikely team is currently atop the standings.

In a conference where Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana and Michigan State were considered the favorites, the 25th-ranked Maryland Terrapins sit in first place entering Thursday’s game at Iowa.

The Terrapins (16-2, 4-1) got to this point by winning three straight games after a shocking loss at home to Nebraska. The most recent victory came last weekend when Maryland defeated Illinois 62-56 in Champaign, Ill.

This winning streak was enough to propel the Terrapins back into the Top 25 for the first time since entering the season ranked 25th.

“It’s a new experience,” Maryland guard Kevin Huerter said to the Baltimore Sun. “We were ranked for it seemed like a week at the beginning of the year, but it doesn’t really change anything.

” … We can’t let the number in front of our name on TV bother us. We’ve still got to come in and work every day and get wins.”

While the Terrapins enter Thursday’s game against the Hawkeyes in first place, playing a second straight road game against a team that’s 3-0 at home in Big Ten play and possesses the conference’s leading scorer in guard Peter Jok.

There will be plenty for challenges for Maryland coach Mark Turgeon and his squad.

“We’ve got a tough stretch ahead of us,” Turgeon said to the Sun. “In every season, unless you’ve got superior talent, you have your ups and downs. We haven’t had our downs yet. Hopefully, we don’t.”

As for the Hawkeyes, they have had plenty of ups and downs since conference play began. The best such evidence of the roller coaster came last week. Iowa followed an 83-78 home upset of then-No. 17 Purdue by going to Northwestern and getting slaughtered by 35 points last weekend.

The most surprising part of the Hawkeyes’ 89-54 loss to the Wildcats was the play of the aforementioned Jok, who only played 21 minutes and was 2 of 9 from the floor en route to a season-low four points.

“Any time he plays poorly, he takes it personal and that’s what the great ones do,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said to reporters on Tuesday. “They should. I never want them to feel blame. I’m not going to blame them.

“And at some point, you don’t want them to blame themselves too much because sometimes the biggest problem you have is they’re too tough on themselves.”

For the players themselves, their challenge is putting that loss to Northwestern behind them and working toward finding the consistency they’ve lacked since the start of Big Ten play.

“At the end of the day, we’ve already been through 18 or so games,” guard Jordan Bohannon said. “We know what it’s like in the Big Ten. We just have to have that consistent mindset every day.”