On Saturday, the Maryland Terrapins went on the road for a ranked battle against the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor. It would be the first time the two teams were to meet over the next two and a half weeks. Maryland was looking to keep things rolling after winning two straight and Michigan was looking to bounce back from a rough loss.
Early on, it was all Michigan, as the Wolverines came roaring out of the gate and jumped out to a commanding lead. Isaiah Livers had a really nice first half and Jon Teske’s defense was absolutely suffocating on Bruno Fernando. At the half, Michigan held a 27-18 lead.
In the second half, Maryland really put up an effort early on. Bruno Fernando came roaring out of the gates and the Terps were able to cut Michigan’s lead to three. However, Michigan then responded with force to push its lead back out to eight. The game would bounce back and forth, but the Wolverines were able to grab a 65-52 win.
So, what did we learn?
What We Learned:
1. What a rebound for the Wolverines.
The last few weeks haven’t exactly been perfect for this Michigan team. Ever since the Wolverines lost on the road to Wisconsin on January 19th, nothing has come easy. Michigan was 5-3 over its last eight games heading into Saturday and the low point had to be Tuesday night’s loss to a below .500 team in Penn State.
However, Michigan was able to get back on track on Saturday at home against a ranked Maryland team. There aren’t many teams that could followup an absolute dud with a win against a team as talented as the Terps. After all, Maryland is not only ranked 24th in the human polls, but it’s also 15th on KenPom. The Terps were also coming off a season changing win at home against Purdue earlier in the week.
The Wolverines still have a long way to go to get where fans are hoping, but Saturday was a really nice game to get back on track after a horrid outing against Penn State.
2. Michigan still very much needs to find some shooters.
By this point in the season, we have a pretty good idea on the strengths and weaknesses of every team. Certain teams struggle on defense, but can shoot the lights out of the gym. Others can’t rebound, but do a really good job of closing out.
And for Michigan, the team continues to struggle from outside the arc.
During John Beilein’s tenure in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines have consistently been known as one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Players like Trey Burke and Nik Stauskas stand out as prime examples of Michigan at its best. Players that could put up 25 on any given night and push Michigan to victory against a high quality opponent.
This year’s team absolutely does not fit that mold. This is a defensive-led team that relies on turnovers and buckets around the basket to win. However, if Michigan is going to compete for a Final Four and a national championship, it needs to find another shooter or two. The only two players who have done much outside the arc this season are Ignas Brazdeikis and Jordan Poole and both have been cold lately.
Beilein clearly made an effort to try out some different players on Saturday like David DeJulius and Brandon Johns and one has to wonder if that was in hopes of finding another shooter or two. Either way, Michigan needs to solve its woes from long range if the team is going to do some damage in March.
3. Maryland remains a really good team, despite this loss.
After Saturday’s loss, expect many to get down about this Terps team. And admittedly, there are some areas to criticize. Maryland lost focus early on and made some crucial mistakes down the stretch that cost itself a chance to get a marquee road win.
However, Maryland remains a really good team, despite the loss. The Terps are still 19-7 overall and in serious contention for a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament. It’s also ridiculous to get too down about losing on the road to a team like Michigan. This is a top 10 opponent on the road in a really tough place to play.
All told, Maryland is going to be just fine. This is still an NCAA Tournament and a squad that’s going to really pose some challenges for opponents in March. Plus, it will have another shot at Michigan in just a few weeks when the teams meet in College Park.
4. Maryland is going to need Bruno Fernando to beat top teams.
Things started disastrously for the Terps on Saturday afternoon and it’s not hard to figure out what went wrong. Despite coming into the game having scored double-digits in 15 straight games, Fernando was a non-factor early on. Jon Teske had him puzzled on the offensive end and he ended up getting 0 points in the first half.
And to no one’s surprise, Maryland’s second half comeback was linked almost exclusively with Fernando’s play in the second half. He came alive and really was able to capitalize when Teske and other Michigan players got out of position. Of course, Fernando also put up some highlight reels dunks of his own.
Fernando is clearly a special player, but if Maryland is going to go deep in March, it’s going to have to find a way to be more productive against good defenses when Fernando gets slowed down. Otherwise, it could be another first weekend exit for the Terps.
Saturday may have gone “according to plan” in some books, but it was a pretty intriguing game until the final minutes. Michigan got up early, Maryland cut it late, and the Wolverines were able to get the job done and grabbed a 65-52 win.
Michigan will now prepare for a road trip to Minnesota on Thursday and Maryland will prepare for a road trip to Iowa on Tuesday.