Maryland basketball dominates Minnesota 81-46 for first Big Ten road win

The monkey is officially off the back of Maryland basketball, as the Terps have finally taken their winning ways away from their home court, crushing Minnesota 81-46 on Saturday night for their first Big Ten road win and fourth consecutive win overall.

With the 35-point victory, Maryland ties its largest Big Ten win margin since joining the conference in 2014 and surpasses last season’s win total with its 16th.

This also marks the first road victory since Nov. 29, when the Terps dismantled Louisville 79-54 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Following this, Maryland lost its next six games away from the Xfinity Center.

“I’m proud of these guys, we wanted to come out and play a solid 40 minutes,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said after the victory. “I thought we came out very focused in the first 10 minutes, I thought we got a little sloppy [in the first half] but the way we ended the first half and the way we came out of halftime was really impressive.”

The Terps were in control from the start, turning nine first half Minnesota turnovers into 13 points, aided by red-hot three point shooting from Donta Scott and Ian Martinez. Three Terps finished with at least two made three-pointers.

Scott – who chipped in 13 points – began the game resembling the player he began the season looking like, a confident scorer who can get to the basket at will, which he did early on Saturday.

His head coach emphasized the importance of getting off to a good start.

“That was big,” Willard said of the fast start. “[Minnesota] played Rutgers really good in the first half … as good as probably anybody has … I think our guys were very focused on how good this team could be. I thought just making a couple of shots early just gave us some confidence.”

Four Terps finished in double figures – including Martinez – who provided an offensive jolt off the bench by¬†connecting on 3-6 from three and applying constant defensive pressure on Minnesota’s guards.

“I thought our defensive intensity started [at Purdue],” Willard said. “I just think these guys have understood who we have to be to win games and I think that has helped tremendously.”

Maryland was dominant in virtually every aspect on Saturday night, taking the Minnesota crowd out of the game almost immediately as the Gophers¬†– the conference’s last-place team – struggled to get anything going on the offensive end.

Despite two quick fouls on Julian Reese, the sophomore big man continued his hot offensive streak with 16 points on 8-10 shooting, 10 of which came in the first half.

The team’s much-improved three-point shooting was a good sign for Willard as they head down the stretch of conference play.

“I have so much confidence in these guys,” Willard said. “When we’re passing the basketball side-to-side they’re good shooters … if we get open looks we’re going to make them.”

Saturday’s victory was a combination of Minnesota missing some of its key players and Maryland performing about as well as they possibly could to pick up their first road victory. With the Gophers scoring only 46 points, it marks the 11th time this season that Maryland has held an opponent to fewer than 60 points in a game.

Grabbing such a large lead allowed Willard to give rest to some of his starters, something he has been longing for throughout this tough stretch entering February.

“I think more than anything I was happy to get some other guys some minutes,” Willard said. “Jahmir [Young] has been logging a lot of minutes, Donta has been logging, and so has [Hakim Hart] … to get them not as many minutes I think helps in preparation definitely for tomorrow.”

With the victory, Maryland improves to 7-5 in conference play, matching three other teams pursuing the likes of Purdue and Rutgers atop the Big Ten.

“I think, with as many teams that are in this league and as competitive that this league is, you just gotta keep grinding out each game,” Willard said. “You can’t worry about who’s winning and who’s losing, you just gotta worry about yourself … it’s February … games matter.”

Maryland will travel to Michigan State on Tuesday night for an important matchup that will have a definite impact on seeding down the stretch in the Big Ten.

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