Terps look­ing to re­verse Big Ten trend

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Don Markus

COL­LEGE PARK — Some­times it’s hard for a col­lege bas­ket­ball coach to fig­ure how his team will han­dle play­ing away from home.

You might have a rel­a­tively young team, as Mary­land coach Mark Tur­geon did when he started three fresh­men along­side ju­nior point guard Melo Trim­ble in the 2016-17 sea­son, and it wins seven of nine games away from Xfin­ity Cen­ter. The next sea­son, with Trim­ble gone, and with Kevin Huerter and An­thony Cowan Jr. as the lead­ers, the Terps re­versed that by win­ning just their first and last road games.

As No. 17 Mary­land (13-3, 3-2 Big Ten) pre­pares to em­bark on its sec­ond straight road game dur­ing a stretch of four of five away from home Tues­day night at Wis­con­sin (10-6, 3-2), Tur­geon doesn’t know what to make of the kind of road team this

sea­son’s team will be be­come. Yet he knows that the Terps have to play a lot bet­ter than they have so far in losses at Penn State, at Se­ton Hall and at Iowa on Fri­day.

“If you’re a good de­fen­sive team, and you’re a good re­bound­ing team, that gives you a chance,” Tur­geon said af­ter prac­tice Mon­day. “Your shot se­lec­tion and your turnovers have to be re­ally good. Our de­ci­sion making on shots and turnovers hasn’t been re­ally good on the road, if you think about the three games. As a coach you’ve got to think about, ‘OK, this isn’t work­ing, What are we go­ing to do?’

“I ex­pected us to be a good road team this year, I re­ally did. I thought the young guys that were fresh­men last year were go­ing to be com­fort­able on the road. We’re not an old team by any stretch, but we’re an ex­pe­ri­enced team. We’ve got to keep plug­ging. You just keep plug­ging. It’s hard out there. I don’t know what the record of home and road is in our league — hasn’t been a lot of road wins yet.”

Af­ter a week in which Mary­land was one of six ranked teams to lose to an un­ranked op­po­nent — punc­tu­ated by No. 8 Michi­gan State’s shock­ing 71-42 de­feat at Pur­due on Sun­day — Big Ten teams are just 14-42 on the road this sea­son. Wis­con­sin (3-2) and Michi­gan State (2-1) are the only con­fer­ence teams with win­ning records away from home.

Asked Mon­day if he was sur­prised how poorly the Terps have played on the road, sopho­more guard Eric Ayala said: “I’ve no­ticed how every­body’s strug­gling on the road. We’re try­ing to kind of get that break­through for us. It’s a goal of ours to be suc­cess­ful on the road. We know we han­dle busi­ness at home and it’s im­por­tant for us, we take pride in get­ting a road win or some­thing like that.”

The com­mon theme to Mary­land’s three road de­feats is poor shoot­ing and sloppy ex­e­cu­tion.

In a 76-69 loss at Penn State on Dec. 10, the Terps shot 19-for-57 (33%) from the field, 8-for-23 on 3-point­ers (34.8%) and com­mit­ted a sea­son-high 20 turnovers. Against Se­ton Hall nine days later, Mary­land shot 14-for-52 ( a sea­son-low 26.9%) over­all, 5-for-21 (23.8% ) on 3’s and turned the ball over 17 times.

Though the num­bers were about the same in his team’s most re­cent road loss — 17-for-52 over­all (32.7%), 4-for-22 on 3’s (18.2%) and an­other 17 turnovers — the de­fense was pos­si­bly the laziest the Terps have played this sea­son, and the game was ba­si­cally a blowout from the mid­dle of the first half on, when Iowa went on a 19-2 run and led by 14 at half­time.

“We’ve di­gressed on the road the last three games,” Tur­geon said. “To me, it’s about be­ing men­tally tough enough to han­dle it and phys­i­cally tough enough when you go on the road. That’s re­ally im­por­tant. The Iowa game, we lost our mind. We turned the ball over, [took] bad shots, didn’t ex­e­cute. We’ve had two good days of prac­tice. I think we’ve got­ten bet­ter. But when the ball goes up and the lights go on, are we go­ing to han­dle it?”

Tur­geon said af­ter the game in Iowa City, and re­it­er­ated Mon­day, that Mary­land has had past suc­cess on the road. In their first year in the Big Ten, the Terps were 5-4 on the road, fin­ish­ing a year in which they were blown out at Ohio State, In­di­ana and Iowa with road wins over Penn State, Ne­braska and Rut­gers. In 2016-17, Mary­land won its first five true road games en route to a 7-2 record.

A year ago, de­spite play­ing with five fresh­men, the Terps over­came los­ing at Pur­due by a point in the road opener by win­ning five straight road games, but wound up los­ing four of their last five to fin­ish 5-5 away from home. One of those losses came against the Badgers at the Kohl Cen­ter, when Mary­land led by as many as nine points in the first half and by five at half­time be­fore los­ing, 69-61.

Af­ter not play­ing at Wis­con­sin in their first year in the Big Ten — the Terps did up­set the then-No. 5 Badgers at home that sea­son — Mary­land has lost three straight in Madi­son. The only win came in 2016, when Trim­ble hit a 3-pointer in the fi­nal sec­onds to beat the Badgers, 63-60. It was the same sea­son in which Tur­geon’s team lost as the No. 6 team in the coun­try at Min­nesota, which had yet to win its first 13 games in the Big Ten.

“We’ve got a track record of win­ning on the road,” Tur­geon said Mon­day. “A lot of guys [on this year’s team] have won a lot of road games in that league. We’ve just haven’t fig­ured it out this year. Hope­fully we’ll fig­ure it out soon. It hard to win [road games]. But we don’t want to play like we did the other night. To me it’s about how you play and the rest takes care of it­self.”

Ju­nior guard Dar­ryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) preaches pa­tience.

“I just want ev­ery­one to stay con­fi­dent,” he said Tues­day. “You see how tough it is to win a road game in the Big Ten. Yes­ter­day, you saw Michi­gan State lose to Pur­due by al­most 30. We’re just con­tin­u­ing to fight, to just get bet­ter ev­ery day and hope­fully we can go to Wis­con­sin and have some suc­cess.”

Notes: De­spite beat­ing then-No. 11 Ohio State at home last week, the Terps dropped five spots in this week’s As­so­ci­ated Press poll, re­leased Mon­day. Michi­gan State fell seven spots to No. 15 and Ohio State, which has lost four straight af­ter los­ing to both Mary­land and In­di­ana last week, fell 10 spots to No. 21. Michi­gan re­mained at No. 19 and Illi­nois, with a win at Wis­con­sin, moved to No. 23. Of the 23 teams that were not ranked but re­ceived votes, six were from the Big Ten, with Iowa re­ceiv­ing the most.

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