The Maryland men’s basketball team has faced two tough teams in back-to-back games, and they have another one on Sunday.
The Terps are back on the road, this time heading to Champaign, Illinois, as they get ready to play the fighting Illini.
The past two weeks have been difficult for Maryland. After starting the season 5-0, the Terps lost three of their last four games.
And even though they found a way to keep the games close, the Terps struggled to close those games out. This was apparent in the Big Ten opener against Purdue when Maryland had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds but missed the shot.
“Proud of the effort, but we’ve got to play a little bit better,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said.
The Illini come into the game 6-2 after losing their last two games against Wake Forest and Northwestern. Similar to Maryland, Illinois has trouble closing out close games. The team lost to Wake Forest 80-73, and it failed to close out Northwestern in overtime, 72-68.
The Illini have five scorers who average at least 10 points. Four of those five players shoot 40 percent, and two of them are at least 50 percent from 3-point range.
Leron Black, who averages 25 minutes a game, is Illinois’ main scorer, averaging 14 points a game. He is fourth on the team in assists, and he leads with nearly six rebounds a game.
Illinois’ main issue is that its offensive production is top heavy, meaning outside of its five main scorers, there aren’t many players who have produced many points. Outside from those players, the rest of Illinois’ roster averages 2.9 points through eight games.
In order for Maryland to get back to winning consistently, it needs to take advantage of this by relying more on its experienced bench. This means players like Sean Obi, Jared Nickens and Bruno Fernando need to have strong games.
Freshman point guard Darryl Morsell will also have to play better than he did against Purdue. Morsell hit just 3-of-16 shots in the Big Ten opener, and he was open on many of his shots.
Turgeon said there were several players who rushed a few of their shots.
“We’ve got a lot to learn,” he said. “We’ve got to watch film and just keep coaching. … Just got to keep coaching them and keep trying to get better and understand situations better.”
Maryland will also need a bigger contribution from sophomore Justin Jackson. With only five points against Purdue, Jackson needs to be a bigger presence going forward.
The most important thing is for Maryland to put together a complete game. The team seems to have fixed its turnover issues, but now the Terps need to put that together with a better shooting performance. If the Terps can do that, they can get back on track.