Despite slump, No. 19 Maryland still stands tall in Big Ten
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) Maryland's inaugural season in the Big Ten has taken a humbling turn for the worse.
The Terrapins were one of the most surprising teams in the country through the middle of January, going 17-2 and twice defeating Michigan State.
Since that time, however, 19th-ranked Maryland has lost three of five - all by double figures on the road. The skid began with an 89-70 embarrassment at Indiana and includes a 71-55 defeat at Iowa on Sunday in which the Terrapins trailed 40-17 at halftime.
The two wins during that stretch were squeakers at home against Northwestern and Penn State, which own a combined 4-17 league record.
''The way the last couple weeks have gone, it's college basketball,'' coach Mark Turgeon said Tuesday. ''It really is, unless you're Kentucky or the top four of five teams in the country.''
When things were going well, the Terrapins could count on points from freshman guard Melo Trimble, senior Dez Wells, junior forward Jake Layman or slick-shooting freshman Jared Nickens.
Recently, however, Maryland's attack has grinded to a halt.
Trimble, the team's leading scorer, had three points in an 80-56 loss to Ohio State and four against Penn State. Wells scored 23 against Penn State, then had 12 points with six turnovers at Iowa.
''After watching film with coach Turgeon, we noticed offensively we stand a lot,'' said Layman, who had one basket in 21 minutes against Iowa. ''That's been a huge problem for us.''
The struggle on one end of the court has led to problems on the other end.
''We let our offense affect our defense when we couldn't get going,'' Turgeon said. ''It kind of steamrolled.''
Turgeon and the players remain upbeat, in part because the Terrapins play four of their next five at home - beginning with a rematch against Indiana on Wednesday night.
''This is an important stretch for us,'' senior forward Jon Graham said. ''We're a good team, and we have to be confident and know we're a good team.''
In spite of the Terrapins' lackluster play recently, this is by far their best season since Turgeon took over for Gary Williams in 2011. Maryland has already surpassed its win total of a year ago, is tied for second in the Big Ten and appears poised to the reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since Turgeon's arrival.
''I don't think we've lost any confidence,'' Turgeon said. ''We're a very confident team. We're proud of what we've done to this point. We like where we are. If you'd have told me we'd be 19-5 and 7-4, tied for second and we have four of next five at home, I'd be, `Whew, we're in pretty good shape.' That's the way we're viewing it. We've got to play better, we know that. But hopefully that starts (Wednesday) night at 9 o'clock.''
Someone suggested to Turgeon that beating Indiana (17-7, 7-4) would bolster Maryland's chances for postseason play.
''We don't talk about it,'' he said. ''We know we have some good wins on our resume, but we know we're not in the NCAA tournament yet. It would be a great win for us because Indiana is a heck of a basketball team.''