The Maryland men’s basketball team kept their season churning with a win over Cleveland State on Saturday, just days after winning the Cancun Challenge.
Close contests seem to be the name of the game when it comes to the Terrapins this season. Maryland has had a pair of games that have been decided by single-digit points. Even on Saturday against Cleveland State, the Vikings gave the Terps a pretty good fight and were only down four points at halftime.
There were plenty of positives to take from the Cleveland State game.
Forward Robert Carter continues to be a force down low for a deep Maryland team. Carter scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds to pace the Terps. The Georgia Tech transfer also connected on a pair of shots from beyond the arc.
Forward Jared Nickens had one of his best games as a Terp. Nickens drilled six of his eight field goal attempts and finished with 16 points. This also marks the second consecutive game that Nickens contributed double-digit points off the bench.
Getting To Know North Carolina
- North Carolina was the preseason No. 1 team in the polls before falling to Northern Iowa on Nov. 21. With the loss, the Tar Heels have dropped to No. 9. However, North Carolina has defeated Kansas State and Northwestern in the CBE Classic to help pad their resume. The Tar Heels are currently seven-point favorites against the Terps in Tuesday’s contest.
- North Carolina will get star guard Marcus Paige back for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup. Paige missed the first six games of the season due to a broken right hand. In Paige’s absence, Joel Berry II played a very high level as he averaged 11.5 points-per-game and dished out 3.7 assists-per-game. It’s pretty remarkable for a guy that only played 13.2 minutes-per-game as a freshman. Berry II is a relentless guard that can get to the rim and isn’t afraid of contact. The Florida native is a very unselfish player that will drop a dime off to a playmate if the opportunity is there. It’ll be interesting to see how many minutes Paige gets, especially with the emergence of Berry II.
- As impressive as Berry I has been, forward Justin Jackson has definitely been the most important player to the Tar Heels’ success. Jackson is currently averaging a line of 14.7 ppg/4.3 rpg/3.7 apg and has been nothing short of phenomenal in every aspect of the game. The sophomore forward really is the type of wing that can do it all. Jackson is a slasher that makes his living around the rim, whether it’s cutting to the basket or receiving a pass on the low block from a teammate. While Jackson does a lot of his damage from around the rim, he’s also a very high-caliber shooter from the perimeter. He may only be shooting 26.1 percent from beyond the arc, but if he’s given room, this is a guy that can burn opposing teams from the outside.
Three Keys to Victory for Maryland
- Defend the paint – Maryland has have one of the better frontcourts not only in the Big Ten, but maybe even in the nation. After a bumpy start to the season, freshman center Diamond Stone is really finding himself on the court. Stone is coming off a game in which he scored 15 points and was efficient from the floor. The combination of Stone and Carter is going to need to protect the paint in a big way against North Carolina. The Tar Heels have a bevy of slashers that love to make their livings around the rim. Berry II, Jackson, and Brice Johnson. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Layman or Nickens step their way into the paint help to try and slow down this Tar Heels trio.
- Draw from experience – Aside from Layman and Sulaimon, not many Maryland players have played in Chapel Hill before. Layman did during his first two seasons at Maryland and Sulaimon has experience from when he played for Duke. Sulaimon, who has been a vocal leader for the Terps this season, is going to have to lead by example. He’s going to have to calm these young guys down and make sure everyone just plays within themselves. These are the types of teams that Maryland will have to beat come March if they want to go to the Final Four.
- Melo needs to be Melo – Trimble is a phenomenal player that hardly ever gets spooked by the big moment. This is a guy that has ice water in his veins. On a huge stage in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Trimble needs to play his absolute best. Aside from the Georgetown game, he hasn’t really had to be the best player on the court. Trimble definitely will need to do just that on Tuesday evening in front of a raucous sea of Carolina blue. This shouldn’t be a huge issue for Trimble due to his ability to draw contact and get to the free-throw line. However, nothing comes easy in a rivalry game like this.