After a 10-point win to push its winning streak to 10 games, Wisconsin continues to find ways to win basketball games convincingly. Doing that again tomorrow night would really be a big accomplishment.
Having the weekend off to rest and prepare, Maryland (22-5, 10-4 Big Ten) has won its last three games, is undefeated at home in Big Ten play and is one of three teams tied for second place in the standings, hanging on to a sliver of hope that they can still catch the Badgers.
Tuesday’s meeting will be the eighth all-time meeting between Maryland and Wisconsin, as the Badgers have a 5-2 record against the Terrapins. The most recent meeting between the two schools occurred in 2009 when the Badgers – behind a 20-point effort from Jason Bohannon – beat the Terps to claim a third place finish in the Maui Invitational.
In this Badger Nation feature, we will look at the three keys or questions for Wisconsin as it strives for its 11th straight win, its first road victory at Maryland since 1932 and clinch a share of the Big Ten title since 2008.
Lay up: Can Wisconsin create turnovers?
Wisconsin should expect a full 40 minute game against Maryland, meaning extra possessions on offense will be critical. Tied with Michigan State for seventh in the Big Ten with 12.2 turnovers a game, Maryland has committed double-digit turnovers in 23 of 27 games, including five straight, and had three games this season with at least 19 turnovers. Needless to say the Badgers will have opportunities they could take advantage of.
Maryland’s three leading scorers are also the top three turnover-prone players: Dez Wells leads with 3.1 turnovers, Melo Trimble is second with 2.4 and Jake Layman is averaging two a game. Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes will likely switch off of Wells and Layman at times on defense, but both have the length and ability to steal the ball away. Although both average less than a steal a game, Hayes has recorded a steal in three of Wisconsin’s last five games and Dekker has recorded four steals over the past five games.
Wisconsin has shown at times this year that they are capable of forcing turnovers. The Badgers are forcing 10.4 turnovers a game but the number has dipped to 8.5 forced turnovers in conference play. When Wisconsin creates the extra offensive possessions, the Badgers have capitalized by averaging 13.5 points off of turnovers.
Maryland is allowing teams to shoot 40.4 percent from the field, which ranks sixth in the Big Ten, but open shots off of transition plays created by turnovers will help Wisconsin avoid prolonged scoring droughts, not to mention take what is expected to be a raucous crowd out of play.
Mid-range jumper: Can Wisconsin win the rebounding battle?
In Maryland’s five losses this season, the Terrapins have been outrebounded by an average of 9.6 boards and outrebounded by double digits in three of the five losses. In the five losses, the Terrapins’ opponents are averaging 35.6 rebounds a game compared to Maryland only grabbing 26 rebounds a game.
Although out rebounding its opponent by an average of two rebounds a game this season, the Terrapins have struggled when they face teams with some length. In a 24-point road loss to Ohio State, the Buckeyes grabbed 51 rebounds, including 16 on the offensive glass. On the season, Maryland is allowing opponents to grab 9.6 offensive boards a game.
Maryland has the size to matchup with Wisconsin, but the Badgers have shown that they can consistently get position around the basket. Wisconsin averages 33.8 rebounds a game, but the length of the Badgers’ frontcourt has helped limit opponents to just 27.7 rebounds a game. Only four Big Ten opponents have outrebounded Wisconsin this season but the margin is only 3.2 rebounds a game and none have resulted in a Wisconsin loss.
Outside of the benefit of making the Terrapins’ defense continue to work on prolonged possessions, offensive rebounds could lead to big perimeter shots. Maryland is allowing opponents to make 7.2 3-pointers a game, and Wisconsin could generate similar offensive looks by consistently touching the paint. Not only are the Badgers averaging 27.8 points a game around the basket in Big Ten play, Hayes (team-best 2.2 offensive board per game) and Frank Kaminsky (team-leading 8.3 rebounds per game) have shown to be prolific passers out of the block, which has opened up outside jumpers throughout the season.
3-pointer: Containing Melo Trimble
Despite only being a freshman, Trimble has shown that he is consistently capable of playing at a high level. Averaging 16.1 points a game, tied for fifth in the Big Ten, and shooting 43.7 percent from the field, Trimble has seven games this year of scoring at least 20 points (three of which in the last four games) and only had three games this season in which he failed to reach double digits.
Compared by some of Wisconsin’s players to Duke’s Tyus Jones, who badly hurt UW off the dribble in Duke’s win at the Kohl Center in December, Trimble has the ability to score in a variety of ways and the innate ability to handle pressure well, not letting opponents force him into taking bad shots or rushed decisions.
Josh Gasser, who will likely get a crack at Trimble, will have another tough task on defense but has plenty of confidence after holding Minnesota’s Andre Hollins to two points on 1-for-8 shooting. With Gasser making Hollins a non-factor, it forced other players for Minnesota to try and beat the Badgers.
One area where Gasser was successful against Hollins was limiting space and separation, which is a big strength that Trimble brings with his ability off the dribble and utilizing shot fakes. Those things have helped Trimble find success on the perimeter, as he is making 39.5 percent from three on the season and 50 percent over the last five games. Keeping pressure on Trimble and contesting shots with a hand in his face are important to try to make the freshman uncomfortable and not letting his confidence grow, which in turn will fire up the crowd.
While Gasser is arguably Wisconsin’s best defender, the senior doesn’t register a lot of steals. Having only recorded one steal over the last five games and only has 19 steals on the year, Gasser relies on forcing his target into help defense that results in other players picking up the turnover. Avoiding fouls are a must against Trimble, who is athletic enough to drive to the lane, draw contact and make free throws, as he’s making 87.9 percent of his free throws attempts.
As always, communication will be key to call out switches, cut off passing lanes and defend shooters. Maryland as a bevy of options outside Trimble, as Wells (14.6 ppg) and Layman (13.6 ppg) are capable scorers. Wisconsin has faced a lot of challenges over its winning streak, but this one is likely the most difficult yet.