Maryland basketball still has a big hole to come out of, but it has a chance to grab a long ladder in the coming days in the form of home games against Indiana and Michigan State. The Terps (11-9 overall, 3-6 Big Ten), once left for dead, can move to the middle of the Big Ten standings — and back into the playoff talk — with a few wins.
Interim head coach Danny Manning’s team has won back-to-back conference games for the first time this season and three of five, which might not seem like much until you remember they have started 0-4 in conference.
“Hopefully that indicates growth and we can sustain it… We’ve done some good things. We’ve given ourselves a chance to be successful and win the ball games,” Manning said.
Indiana (15-5, 6-4) is sixth in the Big Ten, four spots ahead of Maryland. The Hoosiers have won three of their last four games, including a surprise no. 4 Purdue, their first victory over their in-state rivals since 2016. Center star Trayce Jackson Davis ranks fifth in the conference in points (18.4 PPG), fourth in rebounds (8.5), first in blocked shots (2.8) and third in field goal percentage (60.2 ). Maryland’s inner tandem Qudus Wahab and Julian Reese could have their hands full with the 6-foot-9, 245-pound second player.
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“He’s fast, he’s very explosive and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s game,” Wahab said. We must continue our momentum tomorrow. The last games we played well, so we have to continue tomorrow.”
Wahab went through a quiet streak in which his minutes dwindled and he totaled 20 points in five games, but he shot 5 for 7 in each of the last two.
The Terps were lifted by the senior backcourt duo of Eric Ayala and Fatts Russell, who combined for 45 points in a 68-60 win at Rutgers earlier this week. Ayala is four 3-pointers away from becoming the fifth player in Maryland history to make 200 in his career. After a frosty start to the season, he’s made 28 of 63 3-pointers (44%) this month and has scored 19 or more points in eight of Maryland’s last 11 games.
“EA has always been a threat… That Rutgers game, it was damn close to the logo [where he shot one three]”, Manning said. “EA plays at a high level, he makes a lot of threes, he makes difficult threes, he makes challenge threes. So it’s a testament to his level of confidence and the job he’s doing.”
If Ayala and Russell play like they did against Rutgers, the Terps should have a backcourt advantage.
“That’s where their strengths are, point guard and shooter,” the Indiana coach said. mike woodson noted. “All these guys playing are capable of beating you on the dribble. They’re a great dribbling team, a great isolation team. So it’s no surprise, we have to defend the dribble and we have to do that. for 40 minutes.”
The home side have won nine of the last ten meetings between the Terps and the Hoosiers, the only exception being Maryland’s 77-76 victory at Indiana a year ago.
Indiana has the stingiest defense in the conference during conference play, allowing just 64.7 points per game. on the other hand, the Hoosiers are in the middle of the pack in rebounding and making the fewest 3 points per game (six). They are also without starting point guard Rob Phinisee with a leg injury, and Second year point guard Khristian Lander — a former five-star recruit who has yet to make his mark — was often sidelined by a foot injury. Woodson will therefore play piecemeal players in the key position.
“When your name is called, you have to be ready to play,” he said. “It’s that simple.”
How to watch
When: Saturday, 2:30 a.m. EST
Where: Xfinity Center
Watch: Big Ten Network
To smoke: Big Ten More
Propagation: not yet published