Maryland Basketball: Terps look to advance to Big Ten semifinals

Feb 3, 2016; Lincoln, NE, USA; Maryland Terrapins forward Robert Carter (4) and center Diamond Stone (33) and forward Jake Layman (10) celebrate in the contest against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the second half at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Maryland defeated Nebraska 70-65. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 3, 2016; Lincoln, NE, USA; Maryland Terrapins forward Robert Carter (4) and center Diamond Stone (33) and forward Jake Layman (10) celebrate in the contest against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the second half at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Maryland defeated Nebraska 70-65. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports /

The Maryland basketball team enters the Big Ten Tournament after some recent sturggles.

On Friday, the Terrapins will look to advance to the semifinals.

When the bracket was unveiled, it was thought that Maryland would be facing Wisconsin for the third time this season. After easily dispatching of Rutgers on Wednesday, Nebraska upset No. 6 seed Wisconsin 70-58 behind 20 points and nine rebounds from senior forward Shavon Shields.

Maryland has lost four of their last six games entering the Big Ten Tournament, so an easier draw certainly isn’t the worst thing in the world. The Terps are coming off an 80-62 loss at the hands of Indiana, who will host No. 8 seed Michigan on Friday afternoon.

One of the positives from the end of the regular season was the play of guard Melo Trimble. In the final two games, Trimble averaged 17.5 points-per-game, four rebounds, and four assists against Indiana and Illinois. He also shot 45 percent from the field (14-of-31) and 38.5 percent from beyond the arc (5-of-13).

Trimble’s backcourt mate Rasheed Sulaimon hasn’t been quite as successful over the past four games.

Since Sulaimon exploded for 28 points against Minnesota on Feb. 18, the former Duke star hasn’t cracked the double-digit mark in points. Sulaimon is averaging just six ppg and has made a grand total of five field goals during that four-game span.

Sulaimon is also shooting just 23.8 percent (5-of-21) from the floor, including 18.2 percent (2-of-11) from beyond the three-point line. Over the course of the 2015-16 season, Sulaimon has connected on 44.1 percent of his attempts from three.

In addition to needing production from their stellar backcourt, the frontcourt also plays a significant part in Maryland’s success.

Obviously, the Terps can always use scoring from the likes of forward Robert Carter and center Diamond Stone. However, it’s their presence on the boards that coach Mark Turgeon’s squad needs the most.

As we saw against Purdue on Feb. 27, not being aggressive in the rebounding department can have drastic consequences. While Maryland nearly came back to win that game, being outrebounded by 19 is something that is inexcusable for a team with talented bigs like the Terps possess.

Maryland is going to need to impose their will on the glass. They will need to chase after the 50-50 balls and play like a national title contender if they want to have success this weekend and beyond.

Getting to know Nebraska

  • Nebraska has had their fair share of struggles during the 2015-16 season. The Cornhuskers have accumulated a 16-17 (6-12) record this season after losing leading scorer Terran Petteway and Walter Pitchford. Prior to Wednesday’s win over Rutgers, Nebraska had lost their previous five games and three of those contests were double-digit losses.
  • While Petteway is not longer calling Lincoln home, the Cornhuskers lean on a pair of versatile scorers in forward Shavon Shields (16.6 ppg) and guard Andrew White (16.5). Shields is a very crafty forward that is a mismatch for just about anybody who attempts to guard him. The senior forward can get to the rim like it’s nobody’s business. Even when driving from the perimeter, Shields isn’t afraid to put the ball on the floor and knife his way through the lane. Shields also has some range and can shoot from beyond the arc (35.2 percent). While it’s not uncommon for post players to be facilitators, Shields leads the Cornhuskers in assists with 2.8 per contest. On the other hand, White is just as capable scoring the basketball. White, who considered Maryland when he transferred from Kansas, is a great jump shooter. It’s certainly no accident that White leads the team shooting the three-ball (40.8 percent) and is hoisting up more than six three-point shots per game. Simply put, this is a guard that isn’t afraid to shoot the basketball from anywhere on the court. If he gets going, he can score in bunches.
  • Despite not starting recently, guard Glynn Watson Jr. is a very talented piece for the Cornhuskers. Watson, who was recruited by the Terps, is a very capable ball-handler that can really score and create for his teammates. The Illinois native is third on the team in scoring (8.3 ppg) and second in assists (2.5). Watson excels at penetrating the lane and is a confident enough shooter to nail a jumper. However, he also can dish out a bounce pass without a hiccup. This is a quick guard that Maryland will have to account for at all times.

Keys to victory for Maryland

  • Backcourt production – As was mentioned above, Trimble has found himself over the past week and that’s exactly what the Terps need. As Trimble goes, so goes Maryland. Trimble is a wizard at getting to the rim and drawing contact, but he has to start doing it on a regular basis once again. On the other hand, Sulaimon needs to establish some kind of offensive consistency. The former Blue Devil has been absolutely stagnant over the past four games. Prior to that, Sulaimon had been arguably the team MVP for the majority of the season. If Sulaimon can penetrate and draw defenders, it’ll open up shooters like Trimble and forward Jake Layman.
  • Force Nebraska to the perimeter

    – Nebraska is certainly a team that excels at driving to the rim. In order for Maryland to control this game, the Terps need to force the Cornhuskers to settle for perimeter shots that they don’t want to take. Guys like Shields and White can shoot from beyond the arc, but outside of that, Nebraska doesn’t have many other long-range threats. If Maryland can force Nebraska to settle for jump shots, it’ll go a long way in helping their efforts to advance.

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  • Rebound – It’s simple. If the Terps can effectively rebound the basketball, they can beat anybody. Carter, Layman, and Stone need to be aggressive and fight like this is an elimination game. While Maryland is firmly entrenched as an NCAA Tournament team, going further in the Big Ten Tournament could help their seed and give them an easier road to the Final Four.