Maryland men’s basketball vs. Connecticut preview


The Maryland men’s basketball team put their loss at the hands of North Carolina behind them with a 96-55 victory against Saint Francis (Pa.) on Friday.

The Terrapins had three players in double figures in the win, including forward Robert Carter (20 points), forward Jake Layman (16), and center Diamond Stone (16). Stone came off the bench as coach Mark Turgeon decided to give backup center Damonte Dodd his first start of the young season.

One of the biggest positives to take from the contest was the play of Layman. After a bleak performance against North Carolina, the senior forward turned in a phenomenal 16-point performance. Layman just seemed more comfortable and didn’t settle for jump shots.

Layman was an efficient five-of-seven from the floor, including four made shots from beyond the arc. The senior did get going early on with a layup just 14 seconds into Friday’s game.

“I told the whole team this year that we have to get Jake (Layman) going, so I ran a play for him to start,” Turgeon said after Friday’s game. “They guarded the first action well, but the second action allowed Jake to get an angle and get a layup. I love that he took a layup instead of a jump shot. We’ve talked about getting to the basket and getting fouled early in the game to get himself going.”

Maryland also got great production from their bench with guard Jaylen Brantley, forward Michal Cekovsky, and Stone all contributed at least seven points. Friday also saw the collegiate debut of international big man Ivan Bender.

Bender contributed five points and six rebounds in just four minutes of playing time. If Bender proves that he can play valuable minutes, that would give the Terps five talented post players. That’s incredibly important with the possibility of Stone leaving after the season if his draft stock is high enough.

The Terps also shot 47.4 percent from beyond the arc, which is considered one of the team’s primary strengths. Six players made at least one three-point field goal.

Getting To Know Connecticut

  • It was just two seasons ago that Connecticut won the National Championship as a No. 7 seed. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright led the Huskies to glory over No. 8 seed Kentucky. As impressive as that was, Connecticut didn’t have nearly as much success during the 2014-15 campaign. Even with three players averaging double figures, Kevin Ollie‘s squad won just 20 games and had to settle for the NIT. The Huskies fell in the opening round to Arizona State.
  • This year’s UConn squad is very talented, but is coming off recent three-point losses to both Gonzaga and Syracuse. The Huskies are led by a very productive backcourt that features Sterling Gibbs (11.9 points-per-game) and Rodney Purvis (14.1 ppg). Purvis, who began his collegiate career at North Carolina State, leads the scoring charge for the Huskies, and is their most efficient outside shooter (41.2 percent from beyond the arc). He is a lightning-quick guard that can get to the basket at will and can really shoot the lights out. On the other hand, Gibbs is finding his place in Storrs after two productive seasons at Seton Hall. The former Maryland commit is a solid option running the point for UConn, but can also do his fair share of scoring. He is also a career 39.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc.
  • Center Amida Brimah paces the Huskies frontcourt and provides a true inside presence. Brimah is a phenomenal rim protector as he averages 3.0 blocks-per-game. The Ghana native has already recorded 21 blocks in UConn’s seven games, including a mind-boggling nine blocks against Maine in the Huskies season opener. Brimah will present a very stiff challenge for the Maryland bigs, and could be a solid barometer of where Stone exactly is during his freshman season.

Three Keys for Maryland

  • Battle of the backcourts – As was mentioned above, both Maryland and UConn have phenomenal guards. Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon have been as advertised, and there’s rarely a game where both back members aren’t at the top of their game. How the duo defends Gibbs and Purvis will go a long way in deciding Tuesday’s contest. Trimble prides himself as a strong defender, but Gibbs does possess the ability to both score and facilitate.
  • Who controls the glass? – Maryland has been hot and cold in terms of the rebound battle this season. The Terps have no problem on the defensive glass as they average 28.4 per game, which is second in the Big Ten. On the other hand, Maryland struggles on the offensive glass at times. The Terps will be facing a true seven-footer in Brimah, which will pose a huge challenge for Stone. Coming off a solid performance against Saint Francis (Pa.), Stone is definitely more suited to take on a talented rim protector like Brimah.
  • Chance for a resume building win – Maryland did register a great non-conference win against Georgetown earlier this season, but fell against No. 3 North Carolina last Tuesday. Tuesday’s game against UConn offers Maryland a chance to pad their NCAA Tournament resume with a win over an opponent that has the potential to be ranked at some point during the 2015-16 season. The Terps will be playing under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, which is arguably the most historic sports venue in the world. Much like when the two teams did battle at the Barclays Center two seasons ago, Maryland has a chance to make a statement on national television.

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