When the Maryland men's basketball team traveled to Michigan State on Jan. 4, the Terps were just two days removed from their last game.
The roles will be reversed Sunday, when the Spartans come to Xfinity Center fresh off a Friday win over Wisconsin, while Maryland hasn't played since Monday.
Even that handicap may not be enough to bridge the gap between the Terps and the No. 6 Spartans, coach Mark Turgeon admitted. But sitting firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble and facing a late-season schedule with few marquee opponents, Sunday may be Maryland's best chance at a significant upset to help bolster its chances to qualify for a fourth consecutive tournament appearance.
"They have quality depth, so they do still have the advantage there," Turgeon said. "Even if they played at 10 a.m. [Sunday] morning and then played at 1, they still have a lot of depth."
Injuries have left the Terps thin, especially in the frontcourt. Fortunately, Turgeon expects forward Bruno Fernando, who sprained his ankle Monday against Indiana, to play against the Spartans, but added it will be a game-time decision.
Without Fernando's presence inside, Maryland couldn't handle Hoosiers forward Juwan Morgan, who scored 10 points in the final five minutes to seal his team's 71-68 victory. The Spartans boast one of the highest-touted big-men duo in the nation in forwards Miles Bridges and Nick Ward, who combined for 31 points in the Spartans' 91-61 demolition of Maryland earlier this month.
Fernando and center Michal Cekovsky combined for nine fouls and nine points in 34 minutes in that contest.
"[Fernando is] super important," guard Anthony Cowan said. "They also have really good big men."
The team also wants Fernando (9.7 points per game) to be a bigger part of the team's offense, guard Kevin Huerter said. Getting him more involved would ease the workload of Cowan (16.4) and Huerter (14.2), who have scored 46 percent of Maryland's points in Big Ten play.
That imbalance is also, in part, a result of the injuries and foul trouble that's plagued Maryland's frontcourt and left the Terps with few scoring options. Cowan has proved capable of masking the team's deficiencies for much of the year, but the sophomore played one of his worst games this season at Indiana.
Despite playing all but 16 minutes of the team's conference games thus far, the team doesn't believe Cowan's struggles against Indiana were a result of fatigue and don't expect him to break down as his minutes continue to pile up. Instead, Turgeon said questionable officiating played a role in Cowan's frustration and his 6-for-18 shooting, six-turnover performance.
"What I don't want him to do is to lose confidence because one game didn't go his way," Turgeon said. "I want him to be the same Anthony he's been all year."
Even with Cowan playing one of his best games of the season in East Lansing, scoring 26 points on 8-for-17 shooting, the Spartans handed Maryland its worst loss in Turgeon's seven years coaching Maryland.
That was a result of Michigan State playing one of its best games of the season while Maryland played far from its peak, Huerter said. With nearly a week of practice and rest, and a home crowd bolstered by students who just returned to campus for the semester, the Terps hope they can earn an impressive win in their rematch with the Spartans.
"We play a lot better at home," Huerter said. "We have more energy when we're at home right now, especially the hype around them and the ranking and all that. Bring them in here and try to knock them out."