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Wisconsin struggling on defense with Maryland up next

Having lost five of its past six games, Wisconsin will look to solve its recent defensive struggles on Tuesday when it faces Maryland in Madison, Wis.

The Badgers (17-9, 9-6 Big Ten) soared to No. 6 in the AP poll on Jan. 29. They entered February allowing 66.9 points per game but have surrendered an average of 74.5 since.

A pair of overtime losses on the road made possible by porous defensive efforts have bookended Wisconsin's current 1-5 stretch. The Badgers blew an 18-point second-half lead to lose 80-72 at Nebraska on Feb. 1, triggering a four-game losing streak.

After snapping its skid by clamping down in a 62-54 win over Ohio State last Tuesday, Wisconsin allowed Iowa to shoot 52.6 percent from the field on Saturday, enough for the Hawkeyes to prevail 88-86 in overtime in Iowa City, Iowa.

Badgers coach Greg Gard praised his team's aggressiveness on defense against the Buckeyes, so Saturday's loss served as another step back during the team's futile February.

"We could never get our heels dug in," Gard said. "They constantly had us off balance. We can never get enough stops."

The setback spoiled the Badgers' well-rounded offensive display. Steven Crowl led four double-figure scorers with 22 points as Wisconsin shot 47.6 percent from the field and posted its fourth-most points in a game this season.

Chucky Hepburn added 18 points but missed a 3-pointer that would have put the Badgers up by three with 14 seconds left in regulation.

"He's made those," said Gard of Hepburn, who shot 40.5 percent from deep last season but has regressed to a 29.4 percent clip in 2023-24. "That goes down with how much ever time left, probably in a different position."

Hepburn leads Wisconsin with 2.2 steals per game. The junior guard said he doesn't know the root of the Badgers' recent defensive struggles, but he is confident his team will shed them soon.

"We're gonna get back to it," he said.

The Terrapins (14-12, 6-9) may be the remedy Wisconsin needs. Maryland has lost four of its past five games, and its offense ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten in scoring (66.6 points per game) and shooting efficiency (39.8 percent overall) in conference play.

However, the Terrapins have scored at least 75 points in each of their past three games. They cracked 80 for the first time since Dec. 12 against No. 14 Illinois on Saturday in College Park, Md.

Jahmir Young guided Maryland with 28 points against the Fighting Illini, but the Terrapins fell 85-80 on an emotional day marked by the passing of the legendary Charles "Lefty" Driesell, who coached at Maryland from 1969-86.

"I was proud of their effort, we had our chances," Terrapins coach Kevin Willard said. "(When) you give up 36 free throws, you're not gonna win the game."

Illinois hit 32 of its foul shots and finished with the most points and the highest field-goal percentage (48 percent) the Terrapins have allowed in a game this season.

Maryland remains one of the Big Ten's stingiest defenses, holding conference opponents to 66.4 points per game on 41.7 percent shooting from the floor.

Tuesday marks the 22nd all-time meeting between the teams. Wisconsin is 13-8 against the Terrapins.

--Field Level Media

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