When the Maryland Terrapins host the No. 17 Michigan Wolverines for their final game in the Xfinity Center on Saturday, it will be their last chance to get a win over a Top 25 team in the regular season.
But it will also be an opportunity for the Terps to avenge one of their most heartbreaking losses of the year.
When the two teams played in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Jan. 15, Maryland experienced the feeling of winning and losing in about one second. The Terps’ 10-point lead over the Wolverines dissolved in the second half, and they had to fight back from a 57-49 hole to take a one-point lead with six seconds left.
However, they lost the lead when freshman Bruno Fernando fouled Muhammed-Ali Abdur Rahkman on an inbound pass, allowing Michigan to claim the win with a pair of free throws.
Since losing to the Wolverines, Maryland (19-11, 8-9) has dropped five of its last nine games, but the team has recently shown signs of recovery in the past two weeks. The Terps have won three of their last four games, including their first road win since their overtime victory against Illinois.
Michigan, however, has surged since its game against Maryland, winning seven of its last nine games, including four straight in the past 12 days. The Wolverines have risen six spots from its No. 23 spot since playing Maryland and is currently fourth in the conference.
If Maryland wants to close out the regular season on a high note against Michigan, it will have to be able to play a complete game. The Terps almost did so against the Wolverines in the last game, but they will have to avoid crucial mistakes. Maryland plays its best at home, where it is 15-2, so mistakes should be limited on Saturday.
One of the ways Maryland has fixed its ability to play cleaner games is with polishing its four-guard rotation. Sophomores Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan have been joined by freshman Darryl Morsell and redshirt junior Dion Wiley in the starting lineup, and it has resulted in a faster offense that is efficient scoring.
Fernando has also been a regular addition to the starting lineup, and he has been on a tear the past three games. The 6-foot-10 Angola native has averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds in that span. Maryland will need that production against the Wolverines, who are first in scoring defense in the Big Ten.
Maryland will need this win to build confidence heading into its conference tournament game against Wisconsin. A win against on the Big Ten’s hottest teams should do that. Tipoff will be at noon.
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