Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon just shook his head before he began his postgame news conference after Thursdayâ€™s nightâ€™s 74-68 win over Iowa, muttering to nobody in particular: â€œThat was a big game, huh?â€
Turgeon had maintained all week that this was not a must-win after last Saturdayâ€™s road loss at Michigan State. But while Maryland has won nine straight games following a loss, Turgeon readily admitted that this was the most difficult challenge of that batch of games. With the second semester beginning yesterday, this was the first time Marylandâ€™s full student section was back for a game in weeks â€“ and Turgeon knew they expected a win.
â€œIt was our night. It wasnâ€™t easy for us, but we got it done,â€ Turgeon said. â€œIâ€™m proud of our group. We just never gave up defensively and just kept guarding.â€
Here are three takeaways from Thursday nightâ€™s win, which kept Maryland perfect in home Big Ten games (14-0) since it officially joined the league in 2014.
â€” Marylandâ€™s players were fired up to face Iowaâ€™s Jarrod Uthoff on Thursday night, and it showed from the onset. While Uthoff â€“ who entered the night leading the Big Ten in scoring and playing as well as any other player in the country â€“ didnâ€™t find a complete rhythm, he was bothered by Maryland forward Robert Carter Jr. to start. Junior power forward Jake Layman shadowed Uthoff for much of the game after that, helping hold the forward to just nine points on 2-of-13 shooting.
He missed all three of his three-point attempts and didnâ€™t score until 22 minutes in, fading to the background on a night when Iowa relied heavily on the offensive production of Peter Jok (14 points) and point guard Mike Gesell (12 points). Iowa, which shot 42.9 percent and went 5-of-24 from three-point range, was held nearly 13 points under its season scoring average. â€œWe just wanted to come out and get off to a good start defensively. We know that his shot gets him going,â€ Carter said of Uthoff. â€œWe just tried to keep him out of rhythm early, and it worked tonight.â€
â€” The difference down the stretch, Turgeon would later say, is that Maryland was able to generate more offensive production at the free throw line in the second half. It shot just one free throw in the first half after Robert Carter Jr. finished a three-point play.
The Terps hit 15 of 22 attempts in the second half, a result of spreading the floor better and remaining aggressive on the perimeter. Maryland missed all ten of its three-point attempts after halftime and finished 6-of-25, but Turgeon has been harping on earning more appearances at the free throw line as of late and this was a step in the right direction. â€œIâ€™m always trying to go inside, Iâ€™m always trying to get our guys to drive the ball, especially with the way our guys have been shooting it the last few games. That was the difference. Because we were struggling shooting, so getting to the line was the difference. Thatâ€™s a good formula for success.â€
â€” Turgeon added a wrinkle to his lineup Thursday night, opting to start Diamond Stone at center for just the second time in league play. Turgeon had wanted to start the freshman for five games, he said, but the timing wasnâ€™t quite right until this matchup. Stone, who finished with nine points and four boards, battled foul trouble all night but made a string of crucial plays. That included a dunk with just over a minute remaining to help Maryland extend its lead to four. While Robert Carter Jr. (17 points, seven rebounds and four assists) was the star Thursday, the front court also got a considerable lift from Damonte Dodd.
â€œI thought Damonte was off the charts good,â€ Turgeon said.
Dodd finished with five points and three boards, two of which were offensive rebounds that came in on one possession with just less than five minutes remaining. It resulted in a trip to the line for Dodd, who hit one of two to extend the lead to 60-56. It was the kind of sequence that was symbolic of Marylandâ€™s improvement on the boards Thursday. It won the rebounding battle 38-35, and while it gave up 10 offensive boards, it also had 10 of its own. â€œ