No. 17 Maryland and perennially powerful Purdue are looking up at five teams ahead of them in the Big Ten Conference standings as they prepare for a pivotal showdown on Saturday.
And the loser of the afternoon game in College Park, Md., likely will have even more teams atop it in the standings as the conference race takes shape.
The Terrapins (13-4 overall, 3-3) return home after dropping two more games on the road, where they are 0-4 this season.
Purdue (10-7, 3-3) is also feeling its way, though the Boilermakers are coming off one of their top performances of the season after knocking off No. 8 Michigan State in a huge 71-42 victory on Sunday.
Purdue held the Spartans to their two lowest scoring halves of the season and their lowest point total in nearly eight years, snapping the Boilermakers' own two-game losing streak and extending their home winning streak against conference foes to 15. It was Purdue's second win over a Top 10 team this season.
"We just tried to bottle them up, and then offensively, not settle," Boilermakers coach Matt Painter said. "Whether we're driving the basketball or getting post-ups."
The win for Purdue, which was just two games removed from a 63-37 loss at Illinois, was equally important for Painter's defense-minded squad.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon knows something about unusually awful offensive performances, too. His Terrapins fell 56-54 in a heartbreaker at Wisconsin Tuesday on the heels of a 67-49 shellacking at Iowa.
A turnover -- an all-too-familiar occurrence for the Terrapins this season -- came on a late inbound pass and set the stage for Brad Davison's 3-point dagger with 11 seconds left.
"We've stunk on the road until tonight," Turgeon said after the game. "And tonight we were much better and gave ourselves a chance. It's a step in the right direction."
Another step in the right direction is returning home where Maryland is 10-0 this season and 39-6 since the start of the 2017-18 season. The bad news is the Terrapins are right back on the road following Saturday's game, heading to Northwestern on Jan. 21, and Indiana five days later.
On Saturday, Maryland will have to contend with Purdue's imposing size inside. Matt Haarms, all 7-foot-3 of him, is back from a hip injury but he should be ready to go alongside 6-9 Trevion Williams. Williams is coming off a Big Ten Co-Player of the Week performance that saw him average 26.0 points and 13.5 rebounds against Michigan and Michigan State.
Jalen "Stix" Smith powers the Terrapins inside and out with his 13.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. leads the Terps with 16.2 points per game, but Maryland has struggled from 3-point range, hitting just .307 as a team. The Terrapins' 13.0 turnovers per game have added to their offensive woes.
Purdue has been one of the Big Ten's stingiest defenses, allowing only 59.6 points and leading the conference in 3-point defensive field goal percentage at .272.
Sophomore guard Eric Hunter Jr. is likely to draw Cowan defensively. Ironmen Cowan and Hunter rank third and eighth, respectively in minutes played among Big Ten players.
Following Saturday's contest, Purdue has a home rematch with No. 24 Illinois on Tuesday, and then hosts Wisconsin on Jan. 24.
--Field Level Media