The Maryland basketball team resumes conference play when the Terps host Wisconsin on Saturday. The Terps are fresh off a win over Bowie State on Tuesday.
With facing a Division II team, coach Mark Turgeon was able to rest his starters and give some of his bench players extended minutes. No Terp starter played more than 20 minutes and only center Diamond Stone (14 points) and guard Rasheed Sulaimon (16 points) finished in double figures.
Over the last three games, Sulaimon has arguably been Maryland’s best player. The former Duke guard averaged 16 points and 5.7 rebounds in wins against Bowie State, Nebraska, and Purdue.
Sulaimon is also shooting 62 percent (18-of-29) from the floor, despite only connecting on one of his attempts from beyond the arc. He really stepped up to the challenge against the Boilermakers when 21 points and 10 rebounds.
While the minutes were limited for forward Robert Carter and Stone, Maryland still got phenomenal production from their bigs.
Forward Michal Cekovsky, who has been very inconsistent at times this season, exploded for 14 points (4-of-5), four rebounds, and two blocks against the Bulldogs. Cekovsky was very active around the rim and converted high percentage shots.
There’s no question that Carter and Stone have been spectacular during the 2015-16 season. However, the Terps definitely need Cekovsky and center Damonte Dodd to raise their level of play down the stretch if the team wants to make a Final Four run.
Bench production has been an issue at times this season, so Tuesday’s performance from Cekovsky is very encouraging. Obviously, Cekovsky doesn’t need to score in double figures night in and night out, but it’s good to see that he’s capable of stepping up when he gets the minutes.
Getting to know Wisconsin
- After losing three consecutive games in early January, Wisconsin really found their stride as the Badgers have won six straight games. During the six-game winning streak, Wisconsin beat the likes of Indiana, No. 8 Michigan State, and Ohio State. These definitely aren’t the same Badgers that fell just short of a national title last spring. However, this group is proving to be very hungry and capable of holding their own in the rugged Big Ten. As it currently stands, Wisconsin has a 15-9 (7-4) record and are in sixth place in the Big Ten.
- Forward Nigel Hayes is playing some of his best basketball of the season right now. Over his last five games, Hayes is averaging 20.8 points and four rebounds, which has certainly aided Wisconsin’s resurgence. He is also shooting 44.8 percent from the field, which is significantly above his 40.1 clip for the season. Hayes is one of those versatile players that can do it all and every coach loves having a guy like that. This is a guy that is extremely athletic and is able to bully smaller players into getting the shot that he wants. While he only shoots 30.1 percent from beyond the arc, he is definitely capable of hitting his shot when he has the room.
- Another play that Maryland will have to keep an eye on is guard Bronson Koenig. When the two teams met in early January, Koenig scored 13 points and hit three of his four field goals from beyond the three-point lines. On the season, Koenig is shooting 39.2 percent from beyond the arc and doesn’t need much room to make his shot stick. He is also a very gifted passer despite only averaging 2.2 assists per contest. With guys like Hayes and Koenig on the perimeter, the Badgers are very difficult to guard as the Terps found out in the first meeting in Madison.
Keys to victory for Maryland
- Stay Melo – Guard Melo Trimble was just named as one of 20 finalists for the Wooden Award, which is annually given to the top player in college basketball. It’s easy to see why given the high rate at which Trimble plays the game. Over the last five games (not including Bowie State), Trimble is averaging 17.8 points and distributing the basketball at a very high level. In the first meeting, the Bishop O’Connell (Va.) product showed that he can step up in big games when his team needs him. With less than a month until Selection Sunday, Trimble needs to continue produce at a high clip and he needs to do that against Wisconsin.
- Control the interior – In the first meeting between the two teams, the Terps only outrebounded the Badgers 34-32 and allowed Wisconsin to grab 11 offensive rebounds. With guys like Carter, Cekovsky, Dodd, and Stone in the low post, Maryland should have a commanding advantage over a relatively small Wisconsin frontcourt. Stone was very efficient and should be a lot more calm with this game being in College Park. Carter and Cekovsky are both playing some of their best basketball of the season, so that should certainly help the Terps.
- Bench production – Getting a boost off the bench has been an issue for Maryland at times this season. Forward Jared Nickens has been inconsistent, but definitely can add the scoring touch that the Terps need. Nickens did score 11 points against Nebraska, so signs of improvement are definitely there. His ability to shoot from the perimeter is a big feather in his cap and could be a huge asset for Maryland going forward.