Jan 29, 2014; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins guard/forward Dez Wells (32) shoots the ball over the reach of Miami Hurricanes guard Garrius Adams (25) during the second half at Comcast Center. Maryland Terrapins defeated Miami Hurricanes 74-71. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
The Teams: Maryland Terrapins (12-9) at Virginia Tech Hokies (8-12)
The Location: Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va.
The Time: 12 p.m. EST
Maryland nearly lost for the fifth time in six games until guard Dez Wells came to the rescue. The junior was a perfect 7-of-7 from the field and the Terps needed every bit of his 21 points to fend off Miami.
The Terps are not playing their best basketball, but did some signs of improvement against the Hurricanes. Coach Mark Turgeon’s bunch shot 56 percent from the field while knocking down double-digit threes on their way to a 47.6 percent clip from the outside. Guard/forward Jake Layman carried over his solid performance from the Pittsburgh game as he netted 15 points (6-of-15 from the field) and grabbed four rebounds.
Maryland received 51 of their 74 total points from forward Evan Smotrycz, Wells, and Layman. If that trio can keep it going, the Terps could put together a nice little winning streak.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is probably the worst team that the ACC has to offer. The Hokies only have one conference win (a one-point overtime win against Miami oddly enough), which is less conference victories than six-win Boston College has (they only have two).
With star scorer Erick Green gone, guard/forward Jarrell Eddie is shouldering a great deal of the load for the Hokies. Eddie is currently averaging 14.9 points-per-game to go along with 5.9 rebounds-per-game. The North Carolina native is a versatile wing that can do it all. Eddie is extremely athletic and can shoot pretty well from beyond the arc (41.9 percent). He also has the ability to bang in the low post and can get to the rim quite easily.
Three Things You Should Know…
1.) Maryland’s defense is slowly but surely improving
Even though Miami shot 50 percent from the floor and connected on nine threes, the Terps did some nice things on the defensive end. It was good to see that Turgeon didn’t keep running the same defensive sets. We saw everything from man-to-man to zone to a full court press. The full court press worked at times, especially in the later minutes of the second half. It’s a set that could benefit Maryland with two incredibly long players like Smotrycz and Layman on the floor simultaneously.
Defense has been one of Maryland’s biggest downfalls this season. Without a commanding presence down low, it’s hard to defend from the inside-out. The Terps have been trying everything from Jonathan Graham to Shaquille Cleare at the center position, but nothing has seemed to work. In terms of the perimeter, Maryland has capable defenders in guard Nick Faust, Layman, and Wells, but they’re going to need help from the bigs inside in order to be successful.
2.) Virginia Tech shouldn’t be taken lightly
The Hokies are not a good basketball team and haven’t been since former coach Seth Greenberg left. However, they are a pretty athletic team that can play a little bit. Three of their last five games have been lost by single digits and Maryland doesn’t exactly have opposing teams running scared these days. The Terps should have wiped the floor with Miami on Wednesday and even had a 10-point lead in that contest. Of course, we saw that lead evaporate in the final minute before Wells’ heroics. This is a game that Maryland should win pretty easily, but they can’t afford to take any team on their schedule lightly at this point.
3.) The Terps are in for a battle on the glass
It’s no big secret that Maryland is a strong rebounding team. However, Virginia Tech while very marginally, is a better rebounding squad as they average 38.4 rebounds-per-game (46th in the country). The Hokies have eight players in their rotation that average at least three rebounds a game. With forward Charles Mitchell struggling to stay out of foul trouble in recent games, this could be a challenging area of the game for Maryland.
The Terps win if…
Smotrycz is going to be absolutely essential to Maryland’s success in the second half of the ACC schedule. The Michigan transfer had only made five of 23 shots in the Florida State and Notre Dame games, but has really turned it on over his last three. Smotrycz is shooting 57.1 percent (12-of-21) from the field and has hit multiple threes in all three of those contests. He is a guy that can stretch the floor and causes mismatches for opposing teams. Combined with Layman, Smotrycz could be a big piece for Maryland going forward.
Prediction: After surviving a scare from Miami, I’m drinking the Kool-Aid and think the Terps roll in this one, 72-55.