No. 21 Maryland, No. 24 Wisconsin in key Big Ten battle
- No. 1 Michigan State to be tested early
- Defending champ UVa looks to fill holes
- No, 4 Duke expects balanced talent
- High expectations for No. 5 Louisville
- Deep No. 7 Maryland has high hopes
No. 21 Maryland's visit to No. 24 Wisconsin on Friday isn't for the top spot in the Big Ten, but the winner will certainly have a better chance to stay in the hunt.
Especially considering what is coming up for both squads.
Friday's visit to the Kohl Center is the beginning of a stretch of four of five games on the road for the Terrapins (17-5, 8-3). The home game for the Badgers (15-6, 7-3) is a respite before road games at Minnesota and No. 5 Michigan.
Wisconsin has been riding defense to win three games in a row and surge back into the Top 25. The Badgers are yielding just 61.5 points per game this season.
"Defensively, I thought we were pretty good again," Badgers coach Greg Gard after a 62-51 win at Nebraska on Tuesday. "It's kind of becoming our identity and our calling card. We've got to clean up and be a little wiser in some areas."
The Terrapins snapped a two-game losing streak Tuesday, knocking off Northwestern 70-52 in College Park. The brief skid weighed heavily on the young Terrapins, but particularly on their veteran coach.
"I couldn't eat, I was upset, but I came to practice (Monday) and the guys were terrific," said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon.
"I put on four pounds at dinner (Monday) night because the guys were terrific. I just knew that they were ready to come back and play well. That's a really good sign for me. I've just got to remind them that they're a really good basketball team."
The Terrapins' solid play Tuesday was the reminder they needed. Sophomore Bruno Fernando led the way with 22 points and 10 rebounds, teaming inside with fellow 6-10 forward Jalen Smith to dominate the paint. Smith, a freshman who broke out of a recent slump, had 14 points and nine rebounds.
The duo combined for 21 points in Maryland's 64-60 home win over the Badgers on Jan. 14. Junior guard Anthony Cowan did most of the heavy lifting, scoring 21 points, including a clutch 3-pointer in the final minute to seal the win after the Terps had squandered a 21-point lead.
The Badgers have been picking up steam since that game, knocking off Michigan, Illinois and Northwestern in the last three contests and eying a return to the NCAA Tournament after missing the event last season for the first time since 1998.
Wisconsin is one of just five schools to have been in 19 of the last 20 NCAA Tournaments.
Center Ethan Happ (18.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg) leads the way, with help from guards D'Mitrik Trice (13.9 ppg) and Brad Davison (10.8 ppg). It was Nate Reuvers, though, who had a career-high 18 points and led the furious comeback at Maryland. Happ got into foul trouble that night -- something Maryland's Fernando is regularly doing to opponents -- and was held to 10 points.
The Badgers will be at home this time, where they are 8-2, and they are rolling now. The Terrapins apparently got their wake-up call after a loss to unranked Illinois on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
This game looms large as Michigan and Michigan State continue to set a brisk pace at the top of the Big Ten standings at 9-1.
The road is particularly tough from here for Maryland, which travels to Nebraska next Wednesday and then hosts No. 17 Purdue on Feb. 12, before playing at Michigan and Iowa.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 1, 2019