The Big Ten has not served as much of a challenge for Maryland thus far.
That could change Thursday night when the 13th-ranked Terrapins enter a hostile environment to take on No. 23 Indiana, the top scoring team in the conference that’s made a long-awaited return to the Top 25.
Maryland (17-2, 5-1) has rolled through the early part of its conference schedule with its only slip-up coming at Illinois on Jan. 7. Since that defeat, the Terps have beaten Purdue, Rutgers and most recently, Michigan State for the second time this season.
“It feels great,” coach Mark Turgeon said following the 75-59 victory over the Spartans on Saturday. “We are just getting better. I keep telling everybody that this team is going to get better. Today was a step in the right direction. I think people are excited and they should be.”
Strong defense has been the Terps’ calling card, especially in Big Ten play. Maryland has allowed an opponent to shoot better than 50 percent from the field once this season — in a 76-65 loss to then-No. 7 Virginia on Dec. 3 — and the Terps have not surrendered 80 points in a game.
Their opponents’ 38.0 field-goal percentage through six Big Ten games ranks second in the conference behind Nebraska (37.3).
Maryland, though, should face a stiff challenge defensively from Indiana (14-4, 4-1), among the national leaders with 81.6 points per game. Troy Williams and James Blackmon Jr. scored 21 points apiece and the Hoosiers went 11 of 25 from 3-point range to defeat the Illini 80-74 on Sunday.
“We’re not a team that can just go and throw it down to the low-post every time and demand a double team — we need that kind of balance,” coach Tom Crean said. “I think Troy and James right there, showed the kind of complete game. Those guys are really trying to develop.”
Williams has lifted his scoring average and shooting percentage from 7.3 and 50.9 as a freshman to 13.4 and 58.5 as a sophomore.
His inside game is complemented by the perimeter play of the freshman Blackmon, who leads Indiana with 16.6 points per game and is shooting 41.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Maryland has its own freshman sensation in guard Melo Trimble, who scored 24 points and made a career-best six 3-pointers Saturday.
“He’s obviously one of the best players in the country right now,” junior forward Jake Layman said of Trimble, averaging a team-best 16.1 points. “People are just starting to notice it now. He’s been playing phenomenal for us and we wouldn’t be where we are right now without Melo.”
Layman has also played a key role offensively for the Terps with 14.7 points per game. He recorded his fourth double-double of the season Saturday with 23 points and 12 rebounds and is averaging 6.9 boards.
Thursday’s contest will be Indiana’s first as a ranked team since the conclusion of the 2012-13 season, during which the Hoosiers sat atop the poll for 11 weeks.
Indiana and Maryland will be meeting for the first time as conference opponents. The last matchup was an 80-69 Terps victory Dec. 1, 2009.