On a 10-game winning streak, the young Maryland basketball team is cruising into heady territory, uncertain of the future but emboldened by a run that is among the best in program history.
With an 11th straight victory on Saturday over Delaware State (5-7), Maryland (10-1) would match a feat achieved by just five Terrapin teams, and most recently by the 2001-02 Terrapins, who won 13 straight on their way to NCAA championship.
Do omens get any better than that?
Maryland’s longest winning streak ever (14 games) came in the 1931-32 season by the Southern Conference co-champions. This year’s Terrapins can match that mark in the comfort of their own home. After Delaware State, the next three games will be visits to Comcast Center by IUPUI (6-10), Virginia Tech (9-3), and Florida State (7-4). If the streak remains intact, Maryland can make program history with No. 15 at Miami (8-3) on Jan. 13th.
All this from a team that rotates six new players — four freshmen and two transfers.
“The improvement they’ve made has been fun to watch,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said via teleconference on Friday. “Are they totally ready for what lies ahead? Maybe not. Some of them might be further along than others. But they’ll respond. They’re good basketball players. Some nights will be good. Some won’t be.”
After a 76-69 victory over Stony Brook on Dec. 21, the Terrapins went home for Christmas, then returned to College Park for a Wednesday night film session, followed by two practices on Thursday and one Friday morning. Turgeon said he was satisfied and called off a scheduled workout for Friday afternoon.
“They came back in shape. They were a little winded first hard practice yesterday morning,” Turgeon said. “They’ve worked really, really hard. They’ve been really focused. I don’t think we’ve skipped a beat. Actually I think it kind of helped us, having the break. We’re working on us.”
Turgeon said much of the practice time has been spent on time-and-score situations, which the Terps have rarely faced during their streak as all of the victories have come by at least seven points. Turgeon also said Maryland has practiced new plays with the goal of achieving more efficiency on offense.
Turgeon hopes for a better offensive showing on Saturday than the last time Maryland played a team from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, beating South Carolina State 61-46 on Dec. 8. In scoring their season-low, the Terps shot 37.3 percent overall, their worst figure during the streak, as they made only 5 of 22 from beyond the arc.
According to Turgeon, Maryland didn’t react well to the milk-the-clock tactics of South Carolina State. He expects the same against Delaware State.
“They’re gonna come in here and use the clock and grind it, and try to make it a 50-point game,” Turgeon said. “Hopefully we’ll be more prepared for that and handle it better, and guard better when the shot clock’s going down, and limit them to one shot, and execute better on the offensive end.”
Notes: Maryland has won all six meetings with Delaware State. The closest was an 18-point victory in 2010 … Delaware State is 0-84 all-time against BCS conference schools, but can’t be easily dismissed. Earlier this month, the Hornets toppled in-state rival Delaware of the CAA in overtime and took Penn State of the Big Ten to OT before falling. Virginia recruit, sophomore guard Tajh Tate (15.3 ppg), is the top scorer … Lefty Driesell teams that won 11 in a row at Maryland in 1973-74 and 1975-76 reached No. 2 in the nation. Gary Williams’ 1996-97 team which won 11 in a row topped out at No. 5 … Turgeon’s longest winning streak as a head coach (13 games) came in his final season at Texas A&M. The Aggies reached No. 11 in 2010-11 before losing in the Big 12 semifinals and later in the opening round of the NCAA tournament … Maryland’s game on Saturday will be the first of three that day at Comcast Center. The No. 9 Maryland women play Hartford at 4:30 in the title game of the Terrapin Classic, followed by Maryland Eastern Shore versus Brown in the consolation.
Delaware State at Maryland
When: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
Where: Comcast Center, College Park
Radio: ESPN 980 AM