Maryland basketball up to No. 15 in AP poll, Jalen Smith named Big Ten Player of the Week

Forward Jalen Smith dunks the ball during Maryland basketball's 80-50 win over Oakland at Xfinity Center on Nov. 16, 2019. (Joe Ryan/The Diamondback)

After securing its first two road victories of the season last week, Maryland men’s basketball moved up two spots to No. 15 in the AP top-25 poll released Monday.

The Terps traveled to Northwestern on Tuesday and upended the upset-minded Wildcats at Welsh-Ryan Arena with a 51-point second half to rally back from a 14-point halftime deficit.

Maryland’s momentum carried into Sunday’s matchup against Indiana at Assembly Hall, where the Terps’ lead swelled to as large as 14 points behind an onslaught of 3-pointers — nine in the first half. As the shooting regressed in the final 20 minutes, the Hoosiers answered back and established a lead of their own. But Maryland scored the game’s last seven points to escape with a win.

[Read more: Jalen Smith’s late layup lifts Maryland men’s basketball to 77-76 victory over Indiana]

Forward Jalen Smith carried his team in both victories, setting a new career-high against Northwestern with 25 points only to best it five days later with a 29-point outing against Indiana. In the two games, the sophomore scored a combined 54 points on 17-for-27 shooting, including 6-for-11 from beyond the arc, and grabbed 22 rebounds.

Smith also provided an emotional lift in both outings.

Against Northwestern, he pointed to the scoreboard in the game’s final minutes and placed his finger to his mouth, encouraging the opposing fans to stop talking. After the win at Assembly Hall, he pointed to the court, seemingly proclaiming that Indiana’s arena was his house before coach Mark Turgeon angrily directed him to the locker room amid a chorus of boos.

[Read more: Road struggles are rife in Big Ten basketball. How does this season compare to the past?]

He silenced one crowd and caused a visceral reaction from another all in the same week, but his dominant play did most of the talking. With back-to-back double-doubles of 25 points or more, Smith was named the Big Ten Player of the Week.

Last season, Smith was a three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week, but had never earned the overall honor until Monday. The sophomore becomes the second Maryland player to receive the award this season, joining guard Anthony Cowan — who garnered the honor on Dec. 2 after spearheading the team’s Orlando Invitational championship.

With the two victories, the Terps (16-4, 6-3 Big Ten) are tied for third in the Big Ten conference standings. No. 14 Michigan State and No. 19 Illinois sit atop the conference standings with 7-2 records in league play.

Iowa (No. 18), Penn State (No. 24) and Rutgers (No. 25) round out the six Big Ten teams ranked in the Top 25.

Turgeon’s team proved itself on the road last week. On Thursday night, Maryland will host the No. 18 Hawkeyes, a team that handily beat the Terps at Carver-Hawkeye Arena earlier this month.

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