Going into their Big Ten matchup, both the Maryland Terrapins and Northwestern Wildcats had only suffered one loss on the season. Interestingly enough, both of those losses came at the hand of the North Carolina Tarheels. The Wildcats had 13 wins–nearly matching the amount they had all of the past two seasons under Coach Chris Collins.
On Saturday, however, Maryland showed why it was the superior team, as the team cruised to a 72-59 victory. The win also had a bit of history tied to it, giving Mark Turgeon his 100th win as the head coach of Maryland. As happy and proud coach Turgeon was about his own personal milestone, he probably was more excited about the defensive energy put forth by his team. In the prior game against Penn State, there were times when the ‘Terps defense was flat out non-existent, prompting Turgeon to call out his team’s effort in spite of a comeback victory.
How they won:
By no stretch of imagination did Maryland employ a full court press a la Rick Pitino’s Louisville teams, but the ‘Terps turned up their half-court pressure (especially the guards). This was key in forcing Northwestern’s players to rush when attacking or shooting to begin the game. Because Maryland trots out a large frontline, the Northwestern guards had trouble finding any space to operate in. The combination of pressure from the guards and the activity of the big men, helped Maryland frustrate the Northwestern offense, which usually hums at peak efficiency. The Wildcats shot a dismal 37.3% from the field an 10% from behind the 3-point line (2-20). They also shot poorly from the charity stripe–a recipe for disaster.
If a team’s starting backcourt can combine to score 40 points, dish out 14 assists, and only commit 1 turnover, then it should win more times than not. And that’s exactly what Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined to do, which is just another example of why they form one of the most fearsome backcourt duos in the nation. Keeping turnovers low is paramount for Maryland, as it is one of the worst teams in all of the country at turning the ball over (a major reason for the UNC loss). If Trimble and Sulaimon keep this up, the ‘Terps are almost unbeatable.
For Turgeon, getting to 100 this quickly must be somewhat gratifying given the inconsistency and uncertainty that initially came with taking the job. Whule Turgeon will look to eclipse last season’s win total (28), his ultimate goal is to hoist the championship trophy in April. If he keeps this up in the future and eventually wins a championship, he’ll have a chance of entering Maryland coaching folklore with the great Gary Williams.
Maryland’s next game is Wednesday at home against a 6-9 Rutgers team. Despite Rutgers record, Maryland cannot come out sluggish against or complacent. The goal is to build championship habits in pursuit of a tournament run, and beating teams that you should is a necessary step.