The Maryland basketball team puts their three-game winning streak on the line on Thursday.
After coming back to top Illinois this past weekend, the Terrapins travel to Iowa to face a young Hawkeye squad.
Maryland definitely got more of a fight this time around against the Fighting Illini. Illinois led by as many as 11 points in the first half and held a five-point advantage after the first 20 minutes.
The Terps were able to chip away at the Illini lead throughout the second half thanks in large part to Anthony Cowan. Cowan scored a career and game-high 19 points and nailed five crucial free throws in the final minute to seal the 62-56 win.
It was a very impressive victory for a team that struggled from the outside (6-of-22) and only had three players score in double figures. Jaylen Brantley had another gem of a game off the bench as he scored 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
One of the areas that Maryland did excel was on the glass. The Terps owned a 39-33 advantage in the rebounding department when it was all said and done.
Six players had at least four rebounds.
The Terps also didn’t help themselves at the charity stripe. They hit just 50 percent (10-of-20) from the free throw line, but were bailed out by Cowan’s makes in the final minute.
Keys to the game
1.) Slow down Peter Jok – This is easier said than done. You’re talking about the top scorer in the Big Ten and the No. 15 scorer in the country. Jok can create his shot and get off from just about anywhere on the court. It’s quite possible that Anthony Cowan will be the primary on-ball defender when Jok has the ball in his hands. Cowan is one of the peskiest defenders around, so if he draws the assignment of guarding Jok, it could bode well for the Terps.
2.) Push the tempo – Iowa surrenders the most points in the Big Ten at 78.0 per contest. While they are very athletic, Maryland could want to push the tempo in the early going. The Terps have a very athletic and quick team themselves, so it would be interesting to see if they can get the Hawkeyes on their heels in the first half. Tire out Iowa’s shooters and it could pay dividends on the defensive end when the Hawkeyes miss some open looks.
3.) Guard the perimeter – The Hawkeyes do have a few players that can stroke it from beyond the arc. This is a group that shoots 36.3 percent from outside, which is just a hair better than the Terps’ 35.5 percent clip. On the contrary, Maryland is in the top half of the conference when it’s comes to their three-point defense as they only allow opponents to shoot 40.4 percent from deep. This is where the length of guys like Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson really becomes a factor. If they can extend their arms and close out on shooters, you could see Iowa think twice about taking so many threes.
Players to watch
Peter Jok (guard) – Jok is really the total package when it comes to a guard. He can shoot, rebound, facilitate, and clog the passing lane. In fact, he’s the only Big Ten player in the last 20 seasons to average 22 points, six rebounds, two assists, and a steal. Jok is a gifted scorer that also isn’t afraid to hoist up shots from the perimeter. After all, he attempts 7.7 three a night and shoots 39.7 percent from that distance. The senior guard is one of the most lethal in the conference and Maryland is going to have their hands full trying to defend him.
Tyler Cook (forward) – Cook is a slashing forward that is very athletic. He currently averages 12.8 points and 5.2 rebounds for the Hawkeyes and is clearly the top option on the interior. Cook is fearless around the rim, but will also take the occasional jump shot. He’s a strong compliment to guys like Bohannon and Jok because of his inside-out game. It’s going to be interesting to see how he matches up with Damonte Dodd, who is by far Maryland’s biggest post presence.
Jordan Bohannon (guard) – Bohannon is a very crafty backcourt mate alongside Jok. The freshman guard handles the ball quite a bit and is extremely quick. Bohannon really excels at setting up his teammates, which is evident in his team-leading 4.9 assists. He’s also a solid shooter from beyond the arc as he’s making 36.6 percent of those attempts. While he’s not one of the top scoring options for the Hawkeyes, he’s certainly a player that can do some damage if he’s not guarded.
Maryland/Iowa was one of the most anticipated matchups in the Big Ten last year. It definitely doesn’t have the same allure this time around. However, it’s an interesting matchup considering this is a young Iowa team that’s already knocked off a ranked Purdue squad. Aside from Dom Uhl, Jok is the only rotation regular that is an upperclassmen.
It’s going to be about guard play in this one. Will the Terps be able to keep Jok from having a big game? Iowa is coming off a 35-point loss at the hands of Northwestern in which Jok attempted a season-low nine field goals and scored just four points. It was the only game that Jok didn’t score in double figures, so he can be stopped.
Maryland definitely has the length and talent to stifle the Big Ten’s leading scorer. It’s not going to be easy, but Terps will win this one 72-61.