COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) Coming off a rare six-day break that could not possibly have come at a better time, No. 10 Maryland expects to play its best basketball of the season at a time when it matters most.
After losing at home to Wisconsin on Feb. 13, absorbing an embarrassing defeat against Minnesota and squeezing past Michigan last Sunday, the Terrapins retreated to the film room and the gym to prepare for a final push they hope produces their first Big Ten title.
The objective was to find a way to cut down on the turnovers entering the last three games of the regular season - a pivotal stretch that begins Saturday on the road against No. 20 Purdue.
Maryland (23-5, 11-4) committed 12 turnovers against Wisconsin, 15 at Minnesota and 18 against the Wolverines.
''Some of the turnovers have just been ridiculous,'' coach Mark Turgeon said Friday. ''We've run a lot of laps (in practice) this week for turnovers, we've run some steps for turnovers.
''It's not just about Saturday. It's about the rest of the season,'' he said. ''Hopefully we can really correct that. When we keep it around eight, nine or 10 we're a heck of a basketball team. That's kind of the goal moving forward.''
Despite its recent struggle, Maryland can gain at least a share of the Big Ten crown by defeating Purdue, Illinois and current-leader Indiana.
`The only thing we talk about is winning the league,'' Turgeon said. ''We control our own destiny. We don't have to have anybody beat Indiana for us to win the league. We have to do it. But we have to beat Purdue first. If we don't beat Purdue, we're probably out of it.''
Maryland guard Melo Trimble used the six-day hiatus to refresh himself mentally and physically. The sophomore needed it, too, after going 7 for 35 from the field with a whopping 18 turnovers in his last three games.
''To be able to get that week off was really good to us, especially me,'' Trimble said. ''I was able to get a lot of stretching, a lot of things done to my body, yet I was able to stay in the gym and get a lot of shots up.''
Just two weeks ago, Trimble was playing brilliantly. Not coincidentally, Maryland won five in a row and was ranked No. 2 in the country. Then it all began to unravel: After having their 27-game home winning streak shattered by Wisconsin, the Terps fell a Minnesota team that was previously winless in the Big Ten.
The squeaker over Michigan ended the skid but did not erase doubts as to whether Maryland has what it takes to go far in the NCAA Tournament.
''What I want us to do is start playing our best basketball. That's really what's important,'' Turgeon said. ''We're getting closer to that. I know we've lost two out of three, and like, `How can coach be saying that?' But it kind of woke us up.''
Maryland beat Purdue on Feb. 6, but the Boilermakers led at halftime and are far tougher at home. If the Terrapins play to their potential, however, they believe they can beat any team, anywhere.
''We looked at the losses we had. It was just mental mistakes, turnovers, rebounding, stuff like that,'' Trimble said. ''We know these last three games to end the season are very crucial for us and it's going to help us get better for the tournament.''
Forward Robert Carter Jr. added: ''At this point, we feel like we should be playing our best basketball. We're in tournament mode right now. We don't want to lose any games.''