Maryland did enough to remain ranked this week, moving up one spot to 22nd in the updated AP top 25.
Maryland made its top 25 debut for the first time in the Willard era last week, sliding in at 23rd in the AP poll while checking in at 25th in the coaches’ poll last week. It’s a validating honor for a team with a new coaching staff and multiple new faces after bolstering the roster through the portal, but Willard isn’t letting the early season success get to his team. “We’re really not worried about signature wins or where we are. I think we still have a long way to go. I mean we’re good, we have great players, but they’re still trying to learn this system,” Willard said after Maryland won the Hall of Fame Tipoff classic last weekend.
After four days off, Maryland returned to action on Friday afternoon and defeated Coppin State in a 95-79 win. Jahmir Young, Hakim Hart and Julian Reese all finished with over 20 points in the win, marking the first time that three players did so in the same game since the final game inside Cole Field House. While the balanced scoring lifted the Terps to a 6-0 start, the defense showed its first signs of concerns as Coppin State shot 54.9% from the floor. Following the win, Willard took accountability for his team’s performance. “I’ve never had a game after Thanksgiving, I was in a tournament. I technically gave these guys a glorified day off yesterday. We practiced early in the morning at 8 AM, we were done by 10 [AM], we didn’t do any five-on-five. Just because we had been on a grind and we have a grunt ahead of us, I apologize for a bad practice and told them they have to pick me up because I gave them a bad practice and that’s the reason, we’re playing bad. It’s not them, it’s me.”
Maryland will have two chances this week to climb in the rankings starting with a trip to Louisville on Tuesday night then hosting Illinois for the Big Ten opener on Friday night.
“I think they really understand what’s ahead of ’em, our first true road game. Obviously, Louisville struggled a little bit, but Kenny [Payne] still has ’em playing hard and winning on the road is hard to do,” Willard said Sunday. “So we practiced good [Sunday], we practiced for a good three and a half hours. Guys were focused. They understand, you know, road game and then Big Ten play starts so their intensity was really good today and their focus was really good.”