Maryland enters its final regular-season game feeling a bit shaken. Still, the Terrapins can claim at least a share of the Big Ten title with a victory over No. 25 Michigan on Sunday.
Heading into their final five games, the ninth-ranked Terrapins (23-7 overall, 13-6 Big Ten) were in excellent position to claim the regular-season title outright. But they’ve stumbled toward the finish line by losing to Ohio State, Michigan State and Rutgers. The lone victory during that span against Minnesota was achieved by a single point.
Rutgers defeated the Terrapins 78-67 while shooting 49.2 percent from the field.
“We’re just not playing like our normal selves,” sophomore forward Jalen Smith told The Washington Post. “We’re letting a lot of things slip. A lot of our principles that we’re supposed to abide by, we’re not really following. We’ve just got to figure it out.”
Coach Mark Turgeon said his team needs to get tougher mentally.
“It’s really frustrating,” he said. “I think it’s just the weight of everything. There’s been great weight on us all year. … But we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to go get it.”
Maryland was brimming with confidence during a nine-game winning streak that elevated it to the top spot in the Big Ten. The Terrapins looked like a totally different team at Rutgers, trailing by 21 points with seven minutes remaining.
Turgeon is optimistic he can get his team playing at a high level once again.
“I love this team,” Turgeon said. “We’ve got to get back to guarding. Got to look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m a hell of a player,’ and quit hanging our heads and stay connected. We’re going to get fresh between now and Sunday.”
The Terrapins are led offensively by the one-two punch of senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and Smith. Cowan is averaging 16.2 points and 4.6 assists, while Smith is averaging a double-double with 15.4 points and 10.5 rebounds.
Michigan (19-11, 10-9) got a chance to face last-place Nebraska on Thursday after two consecutive defeats. The Wolverines took advantage of the opportunity, cruising to an 82-58 home victory.
Forward Isaiah Livers had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and guard Zavier Simpson also recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists.
Simpson and his fellow senior, center Jon Teske, were playing their last home game. Teske finished with 12 points and five rebounds.
“It feels like yesterday I was standing here my freshman year off a big game,” Simpson said to the Detroit News. “Now this is my last game standing here at Crisler. I just want to embrace every single moment of it and embrace the rest of the season because it goes by quick.”
While the seniors got a proper sendoff, the Wolverines are hoping to have a long run in the upcoming tournaments.
“We have two high-class, high-character guys,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “I’m not surprised by how their college experience has been. It’s been a fun ride, but they know that it’s not over. We still have a lot more season to play.”
–Field Level Media