Containing two of the nation’s top three scorers was a big task this week for Maryland, which proved to have no answers for Iowa’s Keegan Murray or Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn.
Now comes the nation’s other top scorer as Johnny Davis and No. 23 Wisconsin (12-2, 3-1 Big Ten) arrive in College Park, Md., Sunday for a game against the Terrapins (8-6, 0-3).
Tough assignments are the fate these days for Maryland, which yielded 35 points to Murray in an 80-75 loss at Iowa Monday, and 23 points and 18 rebounds to Cockburn in a 76-64 defeat at Illinois on Thursday.
And as luck would have it for Maryland, Davis is on a roll. In a 74-69 upset at No. 3 Purdue on Monday, the 6-5 sophomore had 37 points and 14 rebounds, both career highs. On Thursday in an 87-78 win over Iowa, Davis followed up with 26 points, nine boards and five assists.
Davis’ contributions go beyond those that can be quantified, said Purdue coach Matt Painter.
“He’s the definition of a two-way player. He’s giving the same amount of effort on the defensive end,” Painter said. “I would like to be his agent.”
The emergence of Davis comes after he averaged 7.0 points as a promising but inconsistent reserve a year ago on a team loaded with veterans. He now leads the Badgers in points (22.6 per game, second in the country), rebounds (7.4 per game), assists (2.8 per game) and steals (1.4 per game).
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard credits Davis’ experience over the summer with Team USA, saying it helped him “more mentally than physically.”
“He was able to see that he’s among the best players in the country,” Gard said. “Playing on the world stage can do wonders in helping you believe.”
As his draft stock has risen, so too have the fortunes of Wisconsin, which has won four straight. One of the Badgers’ two losses, to Providence, came when Davis was sidelined by a minor injury.
The Badgers, however, aren’t a one-man band. Brad Davison delivers 14.8 points per game while 6-foot-9 Tyler Wahl (9.4 points per game) keys the interior defense.
While Wisconsin is thinking big, Maryland is simply wondering what it will take to win a game in the rugged conference. On Thursday, the Terrapins were no match inside for Cockburn, who led the Illini to an overwhelming edge in rebounds (45-27) and second-chance points (26-4). Two of the Maryland players assigned to guard Cockburn fouled out.
“Kofi showed why he’s one of the best players in the country,” Maryland interim coach Danny Manning said. “I’ve not been around a post player who’s carved as much space out in the post as they let him carve out. And he’s really efficient when he gets it at that point.”
Veterans Donta Scott and Eric Ayala combined for 33 points as they hit 12 of 19 shots, including 5 of 9 from beyond the arc. But they didn’t get enough help.
Playing at home will be a welcome change for Maryland after its unsuccessful swing to the Midwest.
“We can’t wait to get back in front of our fans,” Manning said. “We need their energy, their enthusiasm and their love.”
–Field Level Media