COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Perfect at home and flawed on the road, No. 17 Maryland hopes it’s found the solution to a weakness that has afflicted several Big Ten contenders.
The Terrapins (15-4, 5-3) trailed last-place Northwestern by 14 at halftime Tuesday before rallying to win their first away game of the season. Whether that was the beginning of a trend or merely an aberration will likely be determined Sunday, when Maryland takes on host Indiana, which defeated first-place Michigan State at home on Thursday night.
The Terps opened 10-0 and were ranked third in the nation in early December before losing successive road games to Penn State and Seton Hall. After rebounding with three straight wins at home, losses at Iowa and Wisconsin dropped Maryland out of the Top 10.
Fortunately for the Terrapins, their 11-0 record at home and 3-0 mark in neutral settings offsets their shoddy 1-4 ledger on the road.
“It’s not anything we’re doing wrong,” standout sophomore forward Jalen Smith insisted. “It’s just that shots are not falling our way and teams are making a lot more shots at their homes than what they do on the road. So we’ve just got to adjust to that and make sure that we work every day to try to get prepared for those types of situations.”
Maryland was thrust into precisely that kind of situation at Northwestern. The Wildcats scored the game’s first 10 points and increased the margin by halftime before Terps coach Mark Turgeon gathered the players and implored upon them to leave the past behind.
“As soon as Turgeon walked in, he said that we’ve got to believe it, we’ve got to want it, and this is the start of the new season,” guard Aaron Wiggins said.
Smith scored 21 of his career-high 25 points in the second half, and Maryland pulled away to a 77-66 victory.
Winning at Indiana will almost certainly take a quality performance from start to finish. The Terrapins whipped the Hoosiers by 16 points earlier this month, but that was an afternoon in which Maryland enjoyed all the comforts of home.
That’s how it is in the Big Ten, which has only one team – Iowa at 3-2 – with a winning record on the road. Michigan and Nebraska are still looking for their first away victory and seven conference squads enter the weekend with only one road win.
“It’s not just us. Every team has struggled on the road,” Wiggins said.
That explains why the Big Ten standings are so tight at the top. Michigan State and Illinois are tied in first place at 6-2, and five teams – including Maryland and Indiana – are one game back.
“Everybody’s kind of having the same issue,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said after his team got beat at Maryland last weekend. “If somebody wants to win this league, you’d think that they’re going to have to string together some road wins.”
Maryland’s game at Indiana ends a five-game stretch that included four on the road. The Terps prevailed at Northwestern by holding the Wildcats to 26 second-half points, and that’s the mindset they will take into Indiana.
“For us, on the road it starts with defense,” Wiggins said. “At home or on the road, if we’re locked in defensively we can win games. We’ve just got to make sure we continue to play defense.”
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