Hoosiers hope for home-court edge vs. Maryland

Just as the Hoosiers’ first round of stretches and warmup shots came to a close Thursday, there was a rumble inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

The student section, packed into one corner of an arena still filling, rose to its feet in raucous applause. A chant of “Hoo-hoo-hoo, Hoosiers!” rushed through the building with more than 40 minutes to go until Indiana tipped with No. 11 Michigan State.

“They were out early today, and they were rocking from the jump,” junior forward Joey Brunk said after that night’s win, when the crowd had more than enough to cheer about. “We love playing, love playing in front of them, and this is a great place to play basketball.”

In an abundantly balanced Big Ten where home-court advantage seems that much more pronounced, hysteria was on the Hoosiers’ side in Part 1 of their two-game homestand versus ranked teams.

With the crowd again behind them Sunday, will the Hoosiers be able to knock off No. 17 Maryland in the same fashion? The Terrapins (15-4, 5-3 Big Ten) are just 1-4 on the road, but that one win just came at Northwestern on Tuesday.

In ways, IU and Maryland are similar. They are both superior rebounding teams. At times, each have struggled to shoot the ball. But where both teams will differ Sunday, undoubtedly, will be who is home and who is away.

When the Hoosiers hit shots versus the Spartans, there was a vocal explosion. Crucial stops were met with an equal roar.

“Our fans right now, when we play a home game, man, it’s second to none,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “And it’s a great feeling because, in this league, it just seems like every single night it’s almost impossible to find a way to pull through. But when you’re at home, it’s very important.”

IU (15-4, 5-3) is trying to take full advantage of its home opportunities, because the road is in their immediate future. After the Maryland contest, the Hoosiers travel to State College, Pa., for a matchup with Penn State. That’s followed by a trip to Columbus, Ohio, to face the Buckeyes.

Going into this past week, Big Ten teams were a combined 38-6 at home, though recent contests have offered some notable deviations from that trend. Illinois picked up road victories at Purdue and Michigan, and Minnesota won at OSU. Penn State also won at Michigan.

Maryland, fresh off its first road win, carries experience versus IU into Assembly Hall. In the two teams’ first meeting Jan. 4, it was a three-point game nearly six minutes into the second half. But the wheels fell off for the Hoosiers, trailing by 30 with just under four minutes to go.

IU will hope it’s solved some of the ills from that game, especially on the defensive end. But one factor noticeably absent for the Hoosiers in that game in College Park was shooting from the backcourt.

Junior Al Durham, who was a savior in IU’s win over MSU, hit just 1-of-5 from the floor against the Terrapins. Durham, Armaan Franklin, and Rob Phinisee were a combined 3-of-14 from the floor in that game, while senior Devonte Green scored 16 of his 18 points in the final four minutes.

Thursday, at home, Durham was smiling and the Hoosier faithful were buzzing after he hit key shots, including 3s near the end of the first and second halves. That’s a big deal, because prior to his 4-of-9 outing versus MSU, Durham hit 9-of-37 (24.3 percent) from the floor in seven games.

“I felt good,” Durham said of one of his 3s. “I’ve been practicing that shot all week. It felt good leaving my hands … and my guys got confidence in me. That’s the biggest thing, really.”

Shooting with confidence is something Maryland coach Mark Turgeon is still trying to get out of his squad consistently. The Terrapins are the Big Ten’s worst shooting squad at 41 percent on the season. They beat IU despite hitting just 38.7 percent from the field that game.

One recent positive has been Aaron Wiggins, who had dipped below 30-percent for the year from 3 — until he hit 10-of-21 from deep in his last three games. Wiggins produced 17 points off the bench for the Terrapins at Northwestern, hitting 5-of-9 from beyond the arc.

“Home, away, on the moon, I don’t care. Just play with confidence,” Turgeon said Friday to a pack of reporters in College Park. “Have fun. It’s fleeting. Careers go quickly.”

There is some advantage to a prior matchup with a team, but Turgeon couldn’t guarantee a replica of the Terrapins’ last result with the Hoosiers.

He’s never won at Assembly Hall as Maryland’s coach.

“It’s a totally different game because it’s at their place, not our place,” Turgeon said. “They are really good in that building, obviously. They are playing really well since we played them. They’ve won four out of five. It helps preparing, because it wasn’t that long ago, either.

“But it’s a different animal going on the road.”

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