COLLEGE PARK -- It was a legitimate critique of these Maryland Terrapins heading into Thursday night’s game against No. 3 Iowa. Sure, Mark Turgeon's team had some quality wins, but where was the signature victory? Where was the real proof -- now late in January -- that this was a national title contender?
We got that proof against the Hawkeyes.
By combining what was at times a dominating offense with a defense that completely neutralized National Player of the Year candidate Jarrod Uthoff, the Terrapins notched a 74-68 victory over the Hawkeyes at XFINITY Center in College Park.
“I don’t get caught up in that,” Turgeon said of talk of his team’s record against ranked opponents. “It kind of made me mad when people were talking that way because our other win has been on a neutral court [vs. Connecticut].”
Part of it is on Maryland. They had opportunities to win at North Carolina and at Michigan State. On the other hand, those are not easy games because, as Turgeon pointed out, they were on the road.
Part of it is not. This was their first crack at a ranked team on their home floor and they got the win. The way the Big Ten schedule shakes out, there are not many marquee opportunities remaining. They have no control over that.
That is why they had to get Thursday’s victory.
The comes a point in a season where you can no longer ride wins over Connecticut, Georgetown, Wisconsin, and Princeton into a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. You have to start adding to it.
Thursday’s win does that and cements them as a legitimate national title contender in a wide-open field of probably about 15 schools who could do the same
“To be honest with you, whether the critics or the media, whatever it is whether they speak well about us or poorly about us, we just try to stay with each other,” senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon said on CSN’s SportsTalk Live after the game.
“We have a goal for this team and we just try to stick together, not worry about anything and just try to be the best team we can be each and every night. And I thought we took a step in the right direction tonight and we’re not going to let it down. We’re going to keep it going going forward.”
Watch SportsTalk Live's full interview with Sulaimon in the video player above, which will begin momentarily.