With a little under four minutes to play Saturday, forward Nicholas Baer drilled Iowa’s 15th three-pointer to put the Maryland men’s basketball team in a 80-58 hole. The Hawkeyes had their largest lead in an eventual 83-69 victory, handing the Terps their first three-game losing streak since 2012.
Baer’s conversion pushed a Maryland foe over the 80-point mark for the second-straight game. Before Minnesota scored 89 points in its win Wednesday night, the Terps had not allowed an opponent to reach that threshold this season. Richmond scored 82 points at the Barclays Classic in November, but that came in the Terps’ six-point overtime win.
Amid these defensive woes, Maryland has plummeted in the Big Ten standings. Once a title contender, the Terps are battling to earn a double bye — given to the conference’s top four teams — in next week’s league tournament.
But Tuesday night, the Terps have a prime opportunity to halt their struggles when they travel to Rutgers, the Big Ten’s lowest scoring team (66 points per game).
“We didn’t defend again,” coach Mark Turgeon said Saturday. “They made a lot of shots. We’re just not playing well.”
Maryland’s defensive pitfalls against Iowa were widespread, ranging from guarding the three-point line to keeping its Hawkeyes off the offensive boards. The Terps allowed a season-high 16 long balls — eight of which came from freshman Jordan Bohannon — at a 61.5-percent clip. They gave up 15 offensive rebounds, which led to Iowa having 30 second-chance points.
These issues weren’t as prominent in the Terps’ 89-75 home loss to Minnesota earlier in the week. The Golden Gophers made eight threes and secured six offensive boards. In fact, Turgeon’s squad held a 42-36 rebounding advantage and scored 10 more second-chance points.
Instead, Minnesota shot 50 percent from the field and made 17 of its 20 free throw attempts. Behind a 55-point second half, the Golden Gophers scored more points than the Terps had allowed all season.
Turgeon was quick to credit Minnesota after the game. Guard Jaylen Brantley and forward Ivan Bender also praised the opponent but noted Maryland’s offensive ineptitude. The Terps shot 41.1 percent, their second lowest mark in Big Ten play, allowing Minnesota to pull away as their shots continued to clang off the rim.
“We need to start off better, and once we have the lead, build it up and maintain it,” forward Damonte Dodd said after the Iowa loss. “The way we’re going to do that is by one, scoring, and two, getting stops on defense. So, once we put two and two together, we’ll be back on top and back where we need to be.”
While Maryland has the Big Ten’s fifth-best scoring offense during Big Ten play, it ranks third in field goal percentage defense, limiting opponents to 42 percent shooting. That type of defensive success helped the Terps get off to the best start in program history and win eight of their first nine conference games.
But in the past two contests, Minnesota and Iowa shot at least 48 percent from the field. Turgeon said a lot of factors have contributed to Maryland defensive struggles, such as the Terps not playing as hard on that end of the floor. He also noted the Golden Gophers and Hawkeyes have played “exceptionally well” against his team.
Still, Maryland (22-7, 10-6 Big Ten) locked down Rutgers (13-16, 2-14) the last time these teams met. In a 67-55 home win Jan. 24, it limited the Scarlet Knights to 33.9 percent shooting, the lowest among Maryland’s conference opponents and third lowest overall.
So, after losing five of their past seven, the Terps hope another strong defensive effort Tuesday will revitalize them before the postseason starts.
“Some teams go through this late in the year and they can turn it around,” Turgeon said. “Hopefully we’re one of those teams.”
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story said the Terps ranked seventh in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense during conference play. The Terps are third in that category. This story has been updated to reflect this correction.