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Iowa, Maryland both hunting for first Big Ten win

Sportsnaut
Iowa forward Keegan Murray (15) shoots the ball as Southeastern Louisiana's Ryan Burkhardt defends during a NCAA non-conference men's basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.211221 Se Louisiana Iowa Mbb 033 Jpg
Iowa forward Keegan Murray (15) shoots the ball as Southeastern Louisiana’s Ryan Burkhardt defends during a NCAA non-conference men’s basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.211221 Se Louisiana Iowa Mbb 033 Jpg

Iowa and Maryland enter their Big Ten matchup Monday night at Iowa City with similar mindsets.

Both Iowa (10-3, 0-2 Big Ten) and Maryland (8-4, 0-1) have recovered from three consecutive losses with three straight wins. Now both teams are anxious to pick up their first conference victory.

“We have a lot of work to do to get back to where we want to be by the end of the year,” Jordan Bohannon said of Iowa’s early-December slow start in league play.

Iowa hopes to atone for its league losses: seven-point loss at then-No. 2 Purdue on Dec. 3 and a four-point defeat to Illinois on Dec. 6.

There were extenuating circumstances as the nation’s leading scorer, Keegan Murray (23.7 points per game), missed the Purdue game with an ankle injury and was at less than full strength in the Hawkeyes’ next two defeats as he made just 11 of 32 shots (34.4 percent) from the floor.

But the light holiday schedule (three games in 20 days) allowed Murray to regain his form as he made 34 of 50 shots (68 percent) in the three wins, averaging 28 points and nine rebounds.

“We’re in the right head space going into Big Ten play,” Murray said on Wednesday night after Iowa’s 92-71 win over Western Illinois.

Maryland is in the right head space as well after running away from Brown in the second half of an 81-67 win Thursday.

Veteran Eric Ayala, who hit just 6 of 28 shots (21.4 percent) and averaged 7.0 points during the Terps’ consecutive losses to Louisville, Virginia Tech and Northwestern, has come alive. During Maryland’s three-game winning streak, Ayala has made 21 of 39 shots (53.8 precent), averaging 20.3 points.

Ayala’s emergence has come with more reps alongside point guard Fatts Russell, a transfer from Rhode Island who had 18 points and five assists in the Brown win.

“When Fatts and Eric are playing the way that they’re playing right now, it just makes us that much tougher,” interim coach Danny Manning said. “The most encouraging thing to me was those guys did it in the flow of the ballgame.”

–Field Level Media