The Maryland basketball team is really on a roll as they’re currently on a four-game winning streak.
On Tuesday, a confident Rutgers squad comes to College Park after beating Nebraska at the buzzer.
The Terrapins were able to move up to No. 22 in the Associated Press poll on Monday. Maryland’s only win came against Iowa on the road in a closely-contested affair.
It was a very balanced effort from a scoring perspective as five Terps finished in double figures. Melo Trimble led the way with 20 points and improved the program’s record to 9-0 when he has scored that same amount during his time at Maryland.
Anthony Cowan and Justin Jackson also continued to impact the game in a variety of ways.
Cowan scored 15 points but also dished out six assists, grabbed three rebounds, and recorded three steals. On the other hand, Jackson netted 12 points to go along with nine rebounds, six steals, and four assists.
Jackson’s performance may have been his best of the season. His versatility on both ends of the floor was truly remarkable and gave Maryland a huge lift.
Jaylen Brantley also continued to show his worth as a key player off the bench for coach Mark Turgeon. Brantley scored 10 points and it was the sixth time that the reserve guard has scored in double figures this season.
The Terps really showed off their depth and that was without Michal Cekovsky and Dion Wiley. Cekovsky and Wiley have missed a considerable amount of games due to injury so far this year.
Keys to the game
1.) Backcourt production – This is rarely an issue for Maryland, but it could be on Tuesday. Trimble missed practice on Monday due to an illness and his status is unknown for the game. The junior guard has never missed a game during his three seasons with the program. If he can’t go, it’s likely that Brantley will start beside Cowan in the backcourt. If that’s the case, Turgeon will definitely need production from the former JuCo guard. Brantley is a very capable ball-handler, so that dynamic between him and Cowan will be interesting to see if Trimble doesn’t play.
2.) Not settling for shots – Rutgers may not be the most gifted scoring team in the world, but they sure can play some defense. The Scarlet Knights currently rank third in the Big Ten in scoring defense as they allow just 65.3 points-per-game. To put that into perspective, Maryland is right behind in fourth with 65.7 points allowed per contest. Opponents are shooting 31.6 percent from beyond the arc against Rutgers as well. The Scarlet Knights don’t have a player in their rotation that is under 6’1, so length is a huge factor. Maryland is going to have to be selective and not just throw up any shot that is available. If they can pick and choose when to shoot from long range, it’ll go a long way in deciding the outcome of this game.
3.) Protecting the paint – Both teams rank in the top seven in the conference in block shots. Rutgers denies 5.6 shots per game while Maryland rejects 4.9 a game. Three Scarlet Knights average at least a block per game with Candido Sa leading the way with 1.2. Once again, the size comes into play, so Maryland is going to have to find a way to attack the paint. Cekovsky is a game-time decision once again, but Damonte Dodd and Jackson have excelled on the interior as of late.
Players to watch
Corey Sanders (guard) – Sanders is an extremely talented guard that really likes to drive to the basket. Since he’s not the greatest three-point shooter (21.6 percent), putting it on the deck is something he utilizes a great deal of the time. He’s as quick as any guard in the Big Ten and can flat-out make defenders look silly if they’re not pressuring him.
Deshawn Freeman (forward) – Along with center C.J. Gettys, Freeman helps protect the rim for the Scarlet Knights. Freeman averages 1.1 blocks-per-game and chips in 11.5 points, which is second on the team behind Sanders. Freeman runs the floor very well for a big and is very athletic. This is a guy that is going to flat-out make plays in the frontcourt.
Nigel Johnson (guard) – Johnson comes over from Kansas State as a transfer and has been a great addition for Rutgers. The former Riverdale Baptist (Md.) standout is third on the team in scoring (11.3 points) and second in steals (1.3) this season. Johnson is very quick and can step in front of a pass at a moment’s notice. While he’s not a great shooter, his ability to get to the rim and create offense is a huge asset for the Scarlet Knights.
The Eddie Jordan era was a forgettable one for the Scarlet Knights. However, that’s in the past and this Rutgers group is an extremely different one. Steve Pikiell has these Scarlet Knights looking very competitive and now they’ve got their first Big Ten win under their belt, which they didn’t earn until March 5 a season ago.
This is certainly not going to be the walk in the park that Maryland has been used to when facing Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have a very talented roster and definitely don’t lack confidence. Sanders is one of the most talented scorers in the Big Ten and will need to be slowed down if the Terps want to win this game. It could be a close one, but Maryland will prevail 72-63.