Maryland has managed the injuries of star Justin Jackson and post player Ivan Bender as well as one could expect. They won four in a row against lesser competition, a tight game against Penn State at home, before getting blown out by Big Ten frontrunner Michigan State on the road. The other three losses on their schedule are: a neutral site game against St. Bonaventure, at Syracuse, and home against Purdue.
The Terrapins’ linchpin this season has been do-it-all forward Kevin Huerter. Though he doesn’t lead the team in any statistic, he has top 2 numbers in: two point (62.1%) and three point shooting (45.7%) , scoring (14.2), assists (3.5), rebounds (4.9) - if you exclude the injured Jackson - and minutes (33.0). KenPom ($) considers the 6’7” Huerter the backup point guard when freshman Anthony Cowan is out, in addition to time at SG, SF, and PF. I’ll go out on a limb and say he could function as the center if Mark Turgeon was feeling crazy.
The aforementioned Cowan leads the team in many of these categories, including scoring (16.2), assists (4.5), and minutes (35.5) in an effort to make Maryland fans forget about Melo Trimble. Though he averages .6 less points than Trimble did last year, he’s getting one more assist per game.
Though Maryland ranks 42nd, per KenPom, offensively, this is not a team without their faults. Specifically, TURNOVERS. They are actually worse than Iowa in this area, if you can believe it, as Iowa has reduced their turnovers/possessions to 18.4% whereas Maryland is 22.4%.
Defensively, Maryland does a good job of forcing tough shots from their opponents with depth down low. After Bender went down, 6’10” freshman Bruno Fernando was added to the starting lineup alongside 7’1” senior Michal Cekovsky. Their combination of size and athleticism have reduced opponents’ shooting to 44.1% from two and 30.1% from three. They’re incredibly fundamental, as they do not send opponents to the line with a free throw attempt/field goal attempt ratio of 20.5%, which ranks second per KenPom.
So where should Iowa focus their efforts?
Defense: As mentioned above, though Maryland has a pretty good offense, their main fault lies in turnovers. The Terrapins mirror Iowa with limited experience and it shows offensively. Both Cowan and Huerter have turnover percentages well over 20%.
While Iowa will likely switch defenses with regularity, they need to bring an overall intensity to that end of the floor which has existed in incredibly small spurts throughout the season thus far. If they want to finish this year strong, it starts with defense.
Play clean offensively: While Maryland does a good job of forcing difficult shots, they are not able to turn teams over like many Iowa has already faced. The Hawkeyes should capitalize on the first clean look their motion offense provides. This means less straight posting from Tyler Cook, who will regularly go against someone bigger than him, and more inside screening to get him in a beneficial position in the paint.
Isaiah Moss is in an absolute rut and needs to assert himself offensively. Both he and Maishe Dailey seemed hesitant to take shots from the outside against Ohio State, which cannot be the case against Maryland. If a Hawkeye is open, they need to shoot it because it may be the best shot they get all possession.
Show some heart: Luka Garza brought it up in the postgame, the biggest thing this team is playing for right now is pride. We learned last year this group can dig deep when their back is against the wall. It seems like their back has been against the wall multiple times the season but we haven’t seen them play with an extended level of intensity. If Iowa can show extended levels of heart, grit, pride, what-have-you, it will bear fruit, if not this year, then next.