Purdue remains in the hunt for No. 1 seed — perhaps even the top overall seed — in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Even so, the third-ranked Boilermakers will try to course-correct following losses in two of their past three games when they oppose Maryland on Thursday night at College Park, Md.
Purdue (23-3, 12-3 Big Ten) saw two opposing fan bases rush their respective courts in celebration in the span of eight days after losses at rival Indiana on Feb. 4 and Northwestern on Sunday.
The theme in both defeats was the same — the Boilermakers committed 16 turnovers in each game.
Five of those giveaways happened during the game’s final 3:12 on Sunday, allowing the Wildcats to go on a game-clinching, 12-1 run. Purdue also committed 17 turnovers in an 87-73 home win over Iowa sandwiched in between the two recent defeats. In that game, the Boilermakers nearly saw the Hawkeyes rally from a 21-point deficit.
Purdue guard Braden Smith said after the loss to Northwestern, “It’s just another game. I mean, we lost, but I felt like Purdue beat Purdue right there. I didn’t think they beat us. We beat ourselves.”
The Boilermakers find themselves in a familiar spot to last season, when they struggled late in the regular season after looking nearly unbeatable during the campaign’s first three months.
Purdue’s 22-1 start this season was the best in program history and included a win over Gonzaga. In the past two weeks, though, the team has struggled despite national player of the year candidate Zach Edey (22.2 points, 13 rebounds per game) continuing to dominate the opposition.
“We have yet to put two halves together these past few games,” guard Brandon Newman said.
Maryland (17-8, 8-6 Big Ten) nearly handed Purdue a loss on Jan. 22 in West Lafayette, Ind. In what was a brutal offensive game, with both sides shooting 15 percent or worse from 3-point range, Purdue eked out a 58-55 victory behind Edey’s 24 points and 16 rebounds.
The Terrapins shook off a road loss last week at Michigan State with a 74-68 home triumph over Penn State on Saturday.
Hakim Hart led Maryland with 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting against the Nittany Lions, while Jahmir Young had 18 points. Young, a transfer from Charlotte, has been a boon for the Terrapins, who are aiming to return to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence.
Young leads Maryland in scoring (16.2 points), assists (3.2) and steals (1.3) per game.
“I thought he would be a really good player,” Maryland coach Kevin Willard said. “And again, I’m being biased, I think he’s as good a guard as there is in the country right now.”
Maryland will need strong efforts from the forward tandem of Donta Scott (12 points, 6.2 rebounds per game) and Julian Reese (10.6 points, 6.4 rebounds per game), who had 19 points the first time the Terrapins played Purdue when matched up with Edey.
The Terrapins will also lean on their home-court advantage.
Maryland has been one of the toughest teams in the nation at home this season, winning 13 of 14, including a victory over Indiana.
“It’s a great home court,” Willard said. “You need it in this league because winning on the road in this conference is unlike anything I’ve experienced.”
–Field Level Media