Feature photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.
For the first time in a month, Maryland will play its next game coming off a loss.
The Terps fell 73-72 to Purdue Saturday afternoon, their first loss since Jan. 1. Following that loss to Nebraska, Maryland went on a tear, winning seven straight games. Tuesday at 6 p.m. in State College, the team will have a chance to start a new streak against Penn State.
The one-point loss is uncharacteristic of the Terps. Before Saturday, the team had played in 10 games decided by six points or less and won nine of them.
Mark Turgeon isn’t too concerned, though.
“We win almost every close game,” Turgeon said. “Sometimes the other team is just going to make more plays than you do or the ball’s not going to bounce your way. Hate that we lost, but a lot of positives.”
The loss allowed the coach a chance to step back and reflect on his team.
“When you lose, you look at your team and where they are,” Turgeon said. “I thought defensively at times we were really good. A lot of positives out of a loss, and the good thing is we don’t have to wait very long to go play another game.”
Part of that defensive effort can be attributed to Michal Cekovsky, who played double-digit minutes for the first time since Dec. 20 against Charlotte. Cekovsky missed Maryland’s first six conference games with a foot injury and had been held to single-digit minutes for three-straight games before Saturday.
During his time on the court, the Slovakian big man was tasked with guarding a mix of 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas and the Big Ten’s second-leading scorer Caleb Swanigan. He recorded six blocks and three rebounds to go along with his 10 points.
“[Cekovsky] was terrific, wasn’t he? God, it was fun to watch,” Turgeon said. “I’d like to see his minutes continue to go up. Hopefully if he stays out of foul trouble we can give him a few more minutes tomorrow night depending on the game situation.”
Another positive for Turgeon was the free-throw shooting from Melo Trimble. The junior guard had 15 attempts from the foul line, the most since he shot 17 against Towson Nov. 20. In the final seven minutes of the game Saturday, all 14 of Maryland’s points were scored at the charity stripe. Trimble accounted for 11 of them.
“I thought we got a great whistle on Saturday. It’s good to see,” Turgeon said. “I think [Trimble] should shoot 10 or 12 every game.”
Trimble has attempted an average of 5.8 free-throws per game this season, an increase from his 5.1 average a year ago. However, it’s significantly less than the 6.9 he shot his freshman year when his foul shooting was an integral part of Maryland’s offense.
In the final stretch of the Purdue game, Trimble drew a foul on seemingly every drive.
“I thought it kept us in the game,” Turgeon said.
But Trimble didn’t shoot well from the field. His four field goals were his fewest since Dec. 10 versus St. Peter’s and his 26.7 shooting percentage was his lowest of the season. He adapted his game accordingly.
“Since my shot wasn’t falling, I had to do something else that was going to help the team, and that was getting to the basket,” Trimble said. “I did a really good job of that, and I was able to draw fouls.”
While foul shooting hasn’t been a problem for Trimble, who makes 83.5 percent of his free throws, the rest of the team has experienced struggles. As a team, Maryland shoots 70.8 percent from the line, seventh in the Big Ten. Without Trimble, that number drops to 66.8 percent.
“Big thing is [Trimble] stepped up and made free throws, which hopefully will become contagious with the rest of the guys and we’ll be a better foul shooting team down the stretch,” Turgeon said.