- The Washington Times - Friday, March 3, 2017

Just six days ago, Maryland’s energy level and confidence dipped to a season low following an 83-69 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes at the Xfinity Center. The loss was the Terrapins’ third straight and fifth in seven games. It was hard to believe that this same team began the season 20-2.

After the crushing loss to Iowa, coach Mark Turgeon emphasized that his team needed to be mentally tougher.

“What made us 22-4 was our mental toughness,” Turgeon said following that game. “We’ve just been so tough. For some reason, the last few games we haven’t been.”

That toughness returned Tuesday night. Leading by one point at halftime, the Terrapins began the second half on a 17-6 run and avoided their first four-game losing streak since 2004-05 with a 79-59 victory at Rutgers.

Not only did Maryland earn an important road victory, the squad regained some much-needed momentum.

“The key thing about Rutgers is we played well,” Turgeon said Friday. “If we had won by one [point] and not played well it would feel different. We really played well, and that’s really what’s important.”

The Terrapins are hoping to keep that momentum going heading into Saturday’s senior day matchup with Michigan State. Although every game is important, this regular-season finale will determine where Maryland is seeded in next week’s Big Ten Tournament, which could have major implications moving forward.

A win would clinch the No. 3 seed and a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament for Maryland. But the Terrapins could fall as far as the five seed with a loss, depending on how Wisconsin and Northwestern fare in their final regular season games.

With the momentum from the Rutgers win in hand and a big game ahead, the players have seen a positive change in their energy level the past few days.

“I think yesterday we had one of the best practices we’ve had all year,” guard Anthony Cowan said. “I think everyone is into it. Everyone understands what’s at stake, especially tomorrow. Everybody is ready to have one final big push to send our seniors out the right way.”

With the postseason in mind, Maryland is treating Saturday as a must-win.

“Tomorrow is a big game for the seniors and the Big Ten Tournament,” Cowan said. “It’s a must-win game. Every game is a must-win game. But everyone is looking forward to this game.”

The Terrapins will honor seniors Damonte Dodd and LG Gill in a pregame ceremony Saturday.

After sitting out last season, Gill has played a major role in Maryland’s success this season, playing 13 minutes per game and averaging 3.6 points.

“He [Gill] has done whatever I’ve asked, and done it with a great attitude,” Turgeon said. “He’s playing his best basketball right now. He’s never had a bad attitude, which is great. That’s why we’ve been so successful. We’ve had an unbelievable year to this point, and it’s guys like LG that help you do it.”

Unlike Gill, Dodd has played all four years for the Terrapins. He’s stepped into the starting center role this season and has made the most of the increase in minutes, averaging 6.4 points and 19.1 minutes per game compared to 2.9 and 15.6 a year ago.

Dodd has also been a leader off the court.

“I feel like I’ve known Damonte forever, I recruited him my first year here,” Turegon said. “He’s come a long way, both on the court and off the court. He’s a great kid, and it’s amazing what he’s done for our program.”

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