The Maryland Terrapins found a way to keep their season alive Sunday night, as they held off the Wisconsin Badgers for their first win in more than two weeks.
Now, they have to save it with only a limited amount of time to do so.
Despite an ugly stretch in January in which it went 3-6, Maryland (16-9, 5-7) has a chance to get back above .500 in the Big Ten and salvage its Big Ten resume if it wins out the rest of the season, starting with a rematch against Penn State (16-9, 6-6) Wednesday night.
The Terps enter the game against the Nittany Lions seriously hobbled from injuries, but they showed signs of life against the Badgers after dropping three straight games by less than 10 points in nine days.
Maryland finally had some luck against the Badgers by closing out the game after Wisconsin battled back from a 10-point deficit.
Since Maryland hosted Penn State on Jan. 2, it has lost six of its last nine games, partly due to its lack of depth in critical moments. To make matters worse, senior Michal Cekovsky injured his left heel in the team’s loss to Purdue, leaving it dangerously thin at center.
Penn State has fared a little better than Maryland since they last met. As winners of three of their last four games, including a win over No. 13 Ohio State, the Nittany Lions have put themselves in a better position for a NCAA Tournament bid than the Terps.
But the two are an even match in more areas than their records. They finished with a similar shooting percentage in their last game, and sophomore forwards Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins and sophomore guard Tony Carr are good matchups against sophomores Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter and freshman Bruno Fernando. The trios have similar size and skill, and both offenses depend on them to carry them.
Free throws — and Penn State’s lack thereof — were the biggest difference in the last contest. The Nittany Lions went to the free throw line just four times compared Maryland’s 34. That likely won’t happen again, which means Maryland will have to rely on the same grit it showed against Wisconsin if it wants to win.
“Teams play better at home,” said Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon. “Sometimes the whistle is a little tougher on the road. And we’re so thin now. That makes is more difficult for us.”
With just six games left before the Big Ten Tournament, teams that are on the bubble will have to make a case to continue their season late into March. Both teams need this win, but if Maryland can come away victorious, it might still have a chance to keep its season alive.