No. 25 Maryland braces for Northwestern
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Maryland coach Mark Turgeon is known for being adept at devising successful plays on inbound situations after deadballs or timeouts.
He gives a lot of credit to that success to North Carolina coach Roy Williams and Larry Brown, a veteran mentor in the NBA and NCAA.
Turgeon, in his sixth season at Maryland, worked as an assistant under Williams and Brown.
"They taught me a lot," Turgeon told the Maryland flagship radio station this week. "Sometimes (those plays) are spur of the moment. I've been lucky; I have good players. It is a very coachable team. You have to be good and you have to be lucky."
The No. 25 Terrapins need to excel in the small things and the big picture when they open play in the Big Ten tournament Friday night against Northwestern at the Verizon Center in downtown Washington.
The Wildcats (22-10), aiming for their first NCAA bid, beat Rutgers 83-61 on Thursday in the quarterfinals to take a big step in that direction.
Northwestern led by 37-9 at one point in the first half and had a lead of 42-24 at intermission as redshirt sophomore Vic Law had 12 points and Derek Pardon 10. Law and Scottie Lindsey finished with 16 points.
The Wildcats lost 74-64 at home Feb. 15 in the only meeting with Maryland this season despite 19 points off the bench from Isiah Brown.
"It's going to be a tough challenge, especially here," Wildcats coach Chris Collins said of facing Maryland. "This is their home gym and they beat us pretty good when they played us a couple weeks ago. We are going to have to play much better and we know what we are up against (with) those guys."
Actually the Verizon Center is not the homecourt of Maryland, though the Terps beat Georgetown here early in the season.
So what makes this a special Northwestern team?
"They believe," Collins said. "They have been through a lot of tough times and have taken their lumps when they were young kids. They have worked hard, they've gotten better, and now they believe they are good. It is fun to be their coach."
Collins is no stranger to Maryland and vice versa as the former Duke guard took part in several memorable games against the Terps when they were in the ACC.
The Wildcats are led in scoring by junior guard Bryant McIntosh, junior guard Lindsey and Law, who were all averaging at least 13 points per game prior to facing Rutgers.
Maryland (24-7, 12-6 Big Ten), the No. 3 seed, lost three games in a row before winning its last two regular-season contests -- at Rutgers and at home against Michigan State.
One key player is freshman forward Ivan Bender, who is from Bosnia & Herzegovina. He has seen more playing time after 7-foot-1 center Mikal Cekovsky of Slovakia was lost for the season with an injury.
Bender reached double figures in scoring in two of the last four games and is averaging 4.8 points and 3.2 rebounds.
"He thinks like a point guard out there," Turgeon said. "He thinks pass first."
The other center in the rotation is Damonte Dodd, the only four-year senior in the program.
L.G. Gill, a graduate transfer from Duquesne, was recruited to play on the wing but has seen more time inside after Cekovsky fractured his ankle against Wisconsin and missed the last four regular-season games.
Maryland, of course, is led in the backcourt by junior point guard All-American Melo Trimble, who is from nearby Upper Marlboro, Md.
Trimble hit a game-winning 3-pointer in the closing second in the regular-season finale Saturday to beat Michigan State. Trimble averages 16.9 points and 3.6 rebounds. He had 32 points at Northwestern this season.
The Terps also start three freshmen in guards Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter, and forward Justin Jackson.
The Maryland campus is about 12 miles northeast of the Verizon Center. This is the first time the Big Ten tournament is being played in the nation's capital.
Updated March 9, 2017