The Maryland men’s basketball team captured its first Big Ten regular season title in program history after defeating Michigan 83-70 on Sunday afternoon.
“Anybody see the thousand-pound gorilla that left, that was on my back? That’s not there anymore,” Terps Coach Mark Turgeon said during the trophy celebration.
Throughout the season, Maryland (24-7, 14-6 Big Ten) faced the high expectations and in return dealt with much scrutiny especially when the Terps weren’t playing at the level they were capable of.
Maryland managed to push that doubt to the side after dominating the Wolverines (19-12, 10-10 Big Ten) from start to finish.
“We played the way we are capable of playing and we look like Maryland, the team that was 23-5, ranked ninth in the country,” Turgeon said.
Terps senior point guard shined in his final game at the Xfinity Center, recording 20 points, four rebounds and eight assists in 39 minutes of play.
Maryland sophomore forward Jalen Smith recorded his 21st double-double of the season, 17 points and 11 rebounds. Smith hit a buzzer-beating three pointer from near half court to close out the first half.
The Terps had one of their best offensive games of the season, shooting 56% from the floor and had four players in double figures.
Maryland’s victory over the Wolverines snapped a two-game losing streak. The Terps will have some time off before heading to Indianapolis on Friday for the Big Ten Tournament.
– Maryland is a completely different team when sophomore guards Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins are shooting the ball at a high level. Ayala had his best game of the season, registering 19 points and seven rebounds. Wiggins added 15 points and three rebounds off the bench. Wiggins and Ayala had the hot hand from deep, as they combined to shoot 6-8 from the three-point line.
“Those two haven’t shot the ball the way they want to but maybe today is the start of them doing what they need to do,” Turgeon said. “If that happens, March can be a lot of fun for us.”
– Maryland’s defensive performance against the Wolverines was a step up from the previous two games. The Terps were playing with a ton of energy and generated steals that translated in transition points. During the final minute of the game, Maryland’s defense forced the Wolverines to commit a five second violation that ruined any chance of a comeback if there was one at that moment. Smith protected the rim on numerous occasions, as he tallied four blocks. Five of Maryland’s players recorded a steal.
“We were a lot fresher today than we have been in a long time,” Turgeon said. “We were great defensively for 20 minutes and then we weren’t any good for about 12 but I give them credit, they were terrific, Simpson is a phenomenal player, and then in the last eight minutes we were phenomenal. They kept making plays, they kept making shots but we were really good defensively again so that gives me hope moving forward.”
– During Maryland’s losing streak, the team’s struggles to shoot the ball was just as bad as its defense. The Terps flipped the script against Michigan, as they shot over 50% for the second time this season. Much of the Terps offensive success can be credited to the way they moved the ball around and were not forcing bad shot attempts.