Maryland set a new Big Ten tournament record by scoring 97 points in Friday night’s win over Nebraska. When asked about his offense postgame by BTN, head coach Mark Turgeon praised the progress his team had made before pivoting to the other end of the floor.
“I just want us to guard a little bit better,” he said. “That would make me feel better.”
For as impressive as those 97 points were, Maryland surrendered 86 to the Cornhuskers, including a furious comeback that cut the Terrapin lead from 25 points all the way down to six with under two minutes to play.
The key metrics that should be of concern: field goal percentage (47 percent), made threes (11), turnovers forced (only 8), and offensive rebounds (10).
If not corrected, all of those problem areas only become bigger issues against the nation’s No. 2 team, Michigan State, in the tournament semifinal on Saturday.
“They play fast and defense is key for us,” senior Jake Layman told CSN’s Chick Hernandez.
It will all start defensively with how Maryland chooses to defend National Player of the Year candidate Denzel Valentine. What makes him so dangerous is not only his ability to go get points himself (19.6/game) but his ability to make others around him better (7.5 assists/game).
One option could be the length of Layman, who when aggressive is Maryland’s most complete-package defender on the perimeter. They could also try an agitator like Rasheed Sulaimon for stretches.
Last time these two teams met in East Lansing, the Spartans needed someone else on the perimeter to hit shots aside from Valentine. That was Bryn Forbes, who had 25 points. Since that game he has reached the 25-point mark three times, including hitting a record 11 threes in a win over Rutgers.
That is before accounting for the interior, where center Matt Costello changed the course of the first matchup between these teams. The Spartans had 17 offensive rebounds in that game and extra possessions against the nation's elite teams mean trouble.
Perhaps that means more from freshman Diamond Stone and redshirt junior Robert Carter. Stone looked to have more energy and fresher legs against Nebraska. A continuation of that would be huge for Maryland.
“They’re always a great team, especially down the stretch of March,” senior Rasheed Sulaimon said. “Coach Tom Izzo does a great job of getting his guys prepared. They’re not going to beat themselves. You have to really execute and you have to beat them.
“We have to keep them off the glass, slow down their transition and then try to keep their big-time players to have a quiet night. We have our hands full, but they also have their hands full us too so we’re coming into the game confident and we’re going to go over our game plan tonight and we should be ready for a great game [Saturday].”