The Teams: Maryland Terrapins (6-4) and Florida Atlantic Owls (3-7)
The Time: 2:00 pm EST
The Location: Comcast Center, College Park, MD
The Coaches: Mark Turgeon (third season with Terps) and Mike Jarvis
The Backstory: The Maryland Terrapins are looking to build on their 88-80 win over Boston College, picking up their first ACC win (on the road no less). Aided and abetted by Dez Wells career high 33 points, Maryland was able to regain the lead against Boston College in the second half and pull away for good with minutes remaining, as Wells scored 14 of Maryland’s final 18 points.
The improved offensive performance surfaced coincidentally when freshman point guard Roddy Peters got the start. The Suitland native finished with a career high 14 points of his own, and allowed Wells to thrive playing off the ball. His facilitation with the rest of the team gave Maryland their highest offensive rating of the year, and with Peters maturation in process, the Terps are looking to sharpen his abilities against FAU.
Meanwhile, the Florida Atlantic Owls have had problems of their own. At 3-7 this year, a tough non-conference slate which featured games against Duke, Boston College, DePaul and Toledo has seen them lose seven of their last nine. The Owls have gotten incredibly strong play out of senior Argentinian guard Pablo Bertone (20 PPG) but not much else.
Keys to the game
1.) Shut down Pablo
Put simply, if Maryland can stop Pablo Bertone from hitting double figures, they stand an incredibly good chance of winning. The senior guard is a very capable player and is the head man of this Florida Atlantic band, taking double the shots of any player on the squad. Bertone has range that extends for days and provides a matchup problem for just about every team he goes up against. Deny the paint to him, and you deny Florida Atlantic the game.
Why? Because outside of Bertone, the coop is barren for the Owls. Their next leading scorer, Jackson Trapp, doesn’t even hit 40% of his shots from the floor. If you thought Nick Faust took errant three pointers, rest assured Trapp will provide plenty of hilarity.
2.) Win the rebounding battle
If there’s one thing Florida Atlantic does that keeps them in most games, it’s rebound. The team comes out with a lot of energy and plays more intense basketball than their 3-7 record suggests. Right now they sit at 70th in the nation with 38.8 rebounds per game, and sure part of that may be due to the fact that they miss a lot of shots, but it’s also because of effort. Maryland is going to have a hard time recouping their shooting errors against this team.
Dragan Sekelja, the Owls 7-footer from Croatia, has a nose for altering shots and rebounding the ball, and if Maryland cannot manage to box him out, I could see problems arising. Sekelja is also a very solid passer, and had 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists against St. Francis earlier this year.
Maryland struggles early with this team given the cold and the lack of a crowd, but eventually come away with a win after a strong second half.