Maryland looks to hand No. 16 Michigan its first loss

·3 min read

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon felt his team showed a lot of growth during its two-game road trip.

He may find out for sure on Thursday as his Terrapins (6-3, 1-2 Big Ten) seek their second straight victory against a ranked opponent when they host No. 16 Michigan (7-0, 2-0) in College Park.

Following a three-point loss at Purdue on Christmas Day, Maryland surprised No. 6 Wisconsin 70-64 on the road on Monday for its first conference victory this season. The Terrapins outscored the Badgers 46-36 in the second half.

"We hadn't beaten anybody good, but I knew we were getting better and so we believed," Turgeon said. "We believed at Purdue we were going to come back and win. We came up short. We believed (at Wisconsin) we're going to win the game, and that's where we really changed the most. Just our toughness, physically, and our toughness mentally."

Turgeon's team shot 50 percent from the field against one of the country's best defensive teams and also out-rebounded the taller Badgers, 32-29.

The Terrapins relied on 6-foot-7 Donta Scott and 6-8 Jairus Hamilton to match up against Wisconsin inside.

"Those guys are smaller than the power forwards and the centers that they are guarding," Turgeon said. "I think that just gives us a lot of energy in itself, just because we know that they're down there battling. ... I think it kind of boosts our level of energy just because we know that those two are working as hard as they can."

Scott is also the team's second-leading scorer at 12.9 points per game. Eric Ayala (14.7) leads Maryland and had a team-high 17 against Wisconsin.

Turgeon believes the team is tighter as it prepares for the undefeated Wolverines.

"We didn't really have the fall, we haven't had a lot of team-building," he said. "A lot of teams have it, and we did a lot of team-building over the last (month), went bowling during finals, just things like that. We celebrated Christmas even though we didn't feel like doing it the other night (after the Purdue loss). A lot of things like that, is really bringing this team closer together."

Michigan is coming off an 80-69 road win at Nebraska on Dec. 25.

Fritz Wagner had his best outing of the season with 20 points and nine rebounds.

"He and I had a really good film session, and he understands that I approach this from a (standpoint of) really encouraging him to play his game," coach Juwan Howard said. "When he's open, let it fly. When the ball's in his hands, I trust him to make the right play."

The win over the Cornhuskers was the Wolverines' first game since Dec. 13.

"I'm impressed with how our group handled themselves during that stretch," Howard said. "It's not easy, sometimes your mind can get lost about what is important, and our guys, despite what we've been facing with this pandemic, they've been committed to win each day by sacrificing for the season."

The two schools played on the final day of the regular season last March. Maryland emerged with an 83-70 home victory behind Ayala's 19 points and seven rebounds.

--Field Level Media