No. 12 Maryland aims for fourth straight win at Iowa

NCAA Basketball
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No. 12 Maryland aims for fourth straight win at Iowa

Streaks collide Friday night in Iowa City when 12th-ranked Maryland, winners of three straight games, travels to meet Iowa, which has dropped its last two contests.

The road-weary Hawkeyes (10-5, 1-3) are desperate to salvage their slow Big Ten start in their return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa just wrapped up a grueling stretch of eight of 10 games away from home that included over 8,000 miles of travel in three different time zones over the last six weeks. Most recently, Iowa fell in back-to-back Big Ten contests at Penn State and Nebraska.

Maryland (13-2, 3-1) has played 10 of its first 15 games at home and lost its only two true road games at Penn State and Seton Hall. But since those setbacks, the Terrapins have rolled to consecutive victories over Bryant, Indiana and Tuesday night versus No. 11 Ohio State.

The common denominator has been defense, with the Terps allowing just 33.5 percent shooting and 57.0 points over those two Big Ten wins. Ohio State and Indiana were just 9-for-45 (20 percent) from 3-point range.

“We won because our defense was just outstanding,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said after the dominating defensive effort in the 67-55 victory over Ohio State. “We’re getting better. We look like a different team than we did. We’re focused. We’re in tune. Guys are locked in. We have to be a better road team. We haven’t been a good road team yet. We’ll see.”

The Terrapins will have to contend not only with the hostile Carver-Hawkeye crowd, but also big, bad Luka Garza, the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 22.1 points and second-leading rebounder at 10.7. The 6-foot-11, 260-pound junior has nine double-doubles this season. He had 16 points and a career high 18 rebounds in Iowa’s tough 76-70 loss at Nebraska, but the Hawkeyes couldn’t overcome 4-of-33 shooting (12.1 percent) from 3-point range.

“We had good looks, but we settled a few times in the second half without really working the ball,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “I always tell my guys, if you’re open, shoot the ball. We didn’t shoot it well. We didn’t have a ton of turnovers, and defensively we weren’t as good as we needed to be for 40 minutes.”

Freshman guard CJ Fredrick, Iowa’s best perimeter shooter, missed the Nebraska game with a foot injury and remains day-to-day, complicating things offensively against a defense allowing just 30.9 shooting beyond the arc. It might be a better idea to frequently locate Garza inside where he will have a 30-pound edge on Maryland’s talented, but thinner Jalen “Stix” Smith. The 6-10 Smith averages 13.3 points and 9.7 rebounds and is often the trigger that shifts Maryland into a higher gear.

The Terrapins can bring lightly used 7-2, even thinner freshman Chol Marial, off the bench but inside depth could be Maryland’s Achilles’ Heel with the recent announced transfer of the 6-10 Mitchell twins (Makhi and Makhel). The Terrapins don’t have anyone built like Garza, who played locally to Maryland at the Washington D.C. Maret School before attending Iowa.

Maryland is beginning a key stretch of four of five games on the road, continuing Jan. 14 at Wisconsin. Iowa is at Northwestern on Jan. 14, but then has three in a row at home before traveling to Maryland on Jan. 30.

–Field Level Media

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