By TROY JEFFERSON and DAN RUSSO
Capital News Service
INDIANAPOLIS — It seemed as though the Terrapins men’s basketball team had finally cleared the last hurdle in their mid-season slump with an 81-55 blowout over Illinois in their last home game on March 3.
Four players – Melo Trimble, Robert Carter Jr., Jake Layman, and Jared Nickens – cashed in on double digits, and everything was right once again in the world of Maryland basketball. That is, until Yogi Ferrell and a rolling Hoosiers squad trounced the Terps 80-62 in Indiana on Sunday.
Now the Terps head into the Big Ten as a No. 3 seed – not where many expected them to be entering postseason play.
Tonight at 9 p.m. (EST), Maryland will match up with the surging Nebraska Cornhuskers, who have won back-to-back games against Rutgers and Wisconsin at the Big Ten tournament here.
Nebraska defeated the Wisconsin Badgers on Thursday night 70-58, behind 20 points from Shavon Shields.
“It was awesome,” Shields said after the win. “I don’t have words to describe it, but I’m happy that we have a chance to keep playing and get a shot at Maryland tomorrow.”
The last time Maryland played the Cornhuskers, on Feb. 3 on Nebraska’s home court in Lincoln, Trimble and Diamond Stone led the way for Terps en route to a 70-65 win.
Shields struggled to find his shooting stroke in the last contest, making just four of his 17 attempts. Since returning five games ago from a concussion, he has averaged a little more than 21 points per game.
Trimble finished with 20 points and Stone added 16 points and 10 rebounds in that February contest. However, the duo, like the team as a whole, has struggled since that victory over Nebraska.
The Terrapins have lost four of their last six games and haven’t defeated a ranked opponent since Feb. 6, when they took down the Purdue Boilermakers.
During the skid, Trimble has had 26 assists and 24 turnovers. Those are pedestrian numbers for the star point guard, who was seen as a shoo-in for first team all-conference but settled for second team honors.
Despite the Terps’ struggles coming into the tournament, head coach Mark Turgeon isn’t quite ready to lose hope in his point guard or his team, heading into this postseason.
Tournament play often breathes new life into a team’s season, and Maryland is embracing that philosophy.
“Teams can turn it on a dime, but I’m not disappointed with the way we’re playing,” Turgeon said to the Baltimore Sun. “I’m disappointed that we’ve lost a couple of games late, we ended up a three seed in a great league. We had a very difficult road schedule.”
Given the up-and-down nature of Maryland’s season, the Big Ten tournament will be the dress rehearsal for the Big Dance and the best determinant for just how deep of a run the Terps are capable of making in March.