COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Coming off a stinging loss at home, No. 21 Maryland now must face Penn State on the road Tuesday night.
Strangely enough, it’s the perfect scenario for the Terrapins to get back on course in their quest to finish first in the Big Ten.
Maryland (20-3, 8-2) is 6-0 on the road, tied with top-ranked Gonzaga for the best mark in college basketball. The Terps are also 2-0 on neutral courts.
That’s pretty impressive for a team that starts three freshmen and has only two seniors on the roster.
“We always talk about being poised playing on the road,” junior guard Melo Trimble said Monday. “We know we’re not going to get the calls we want, and we’re playing against their crowd. We just play with confidence and play to win.”
At home and away, it’s been a surprisingly successful season for Maryland. Despite having only one starter back from the veteran-laden squad that reached the Sweet 16 last year, the Terrapins have jostled their way to the upper tier of the Big Ten standings behind Trimble and first-year players Kevin Huerter, Anthony Cowan and Justin Jackson.
Maryland’s two losses since Nov. 29 have been by a total of three points, including a 73-72 heartbreaker on Saturday against Purdue that knocked the Terrapins out of first place.
“Kids are resilient. They move on to the next thing,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “They know they’re 20-3 and done a pretty nice job.”
“The good thing is we don’t have to wait very long to play another game,” Turgeon said.
Penn State (12-12, 4-7) has lost five of six, including an embarrassing 70-68 defeat at home Saturday against Rutgers.
That bodes well for Maryland, which has won five straight conference games in the road for the first time since the 2001-02 national championship season. The Terrapins have never won six conference games in a row, so history beckons Tuesday night.
“We’ve played a lot of road games and were able to win those games,” Trimble said. “We lost the other day, but that helped us refocus. It keeps us humble.”
Early in the season, the upperclassmen provided guidance to the freshman about playing on the road. That kind of pampering, obviously, is no longer necessary.
“It’s to the point now where we’ll meet and just explain what this game is going to be about,” Turgeon said. “What this building is like, what their players are like in this building. Just kind of give them a feel that way.”
The Terps provided a glimpse of things to come back in their first road game, a clash against neighboring rival Georgetown at the Verizon Center in mid-November. Maryland rallied in the closing minutes to pull out a 76-75 win, and for an encore the Terrapins won the Barclays Classic with back-to-back victories in Brooklyn, New York.
“We had success early and it kind of carried over,” Turgeon said.
If the Terps stay on that course, they could be the top seed in the Big Ten tournament in the nation’s capital next month. Their eight remaining games include trips to Penn State, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Rutgers.
“We know they’re all going to be hard. They’ve all been hard to this point,” Turgeon said. “But hopefully we can stay with the same confidence on the road, the same poise, and get it done.”
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