Feature photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.
Maryland goes back to Division I opponents Sunday at 2 p.m. when Towson travels south to College Park.
The Terps predictably waxed Division III St. Mary’s College (MD) Thursday, 93-45. Head coach Mark Turgeon said it was a nice break from the grind of pre-game prep and used the game to let many players see the court. He added it was a good opportunity for his new guys to play together.
“I have so many new players,” Turgeon said. “You got L.G. [Gill]. You got Ivan [Bender], who didn’t play a lot (last year). Dion [Wiley] who didn’t play last year. They’re just excited to play.”
Towson should provide Maryland with more resistance, though. The Tigers are coming off a 20-win season and are 2-0 with away wins at George Mason and Morgan State. Junior guard Mike Morsell and senior forward Arnaud William Adala Moto have scored at will, each averaging over 20 points per game so far.
With this many new and moving pieces, the early part of this season is a tricky one for the Terps. Here are four things to watch for in their game against Towson:
- 3-point shooting
Since the offseason, Turgeon has maintained this is a great shooting team. We are yet to see it from deep, though. Through three games, the Terps are shooting 26.5 percent from behind the line (18-of-68), and their best 3-point shooting night of the season was 28.6 percent against American. Maryland has a guard-heavy roster, especially with junior center Michal Cekovsky dealing with injury issues.
Freshman guard Kevin Huerter said his team doesn’t need to change anything, they just have to knock them down.
“We got a lot of wide-open shots tonight,” Huerter said after the St. Mary’s game. “We definitely had makeable shots against Georgetown. You just have to make shots.”
Maryland may be able to get by Towson and much of the rest of its non-conference schedule without consistent 3-point shooting, but it will likely be crucial in conference play. At some point the Terps need to get the issue solved.
- How Maryland defends Mike Morsell
Towson’s Mike Morsell averaged 13 points per game last season but has stepped up to fill the void left by the transfer of Byron Hawkins. Morsell scored 21 points and 22 respectively against George Mason and Morgan State and has proven to be a factor on the glass, too. It’s likely that Turgeon will task either Huerter or freshman guard Anthony Cowan with guarding Towson’s leading man. Turgeon called the two freshmen his best perimeter defenders earlier this week, and they’ve proved it so far. Cowan leads the team with 2.7 steals per game, and Huerter proved his defensive savvy on the final play of the Georgetown game, anticipating the play well to make the game-saving block. Morsell will pose another major challenge for whomever is matched up on him.
- The three-headed freshman monster
Huerter, Cowan and freshman forward Justin Jackson all got the start against St. Mary’s, the first time three freshmen started for Maryland since Cekovsky, Melo Trimble and Jared Nickens started versus Northwestern on Jan. 25, 2015. The three would have started Tuesday at the Verizon Center, but Turgeon said after the St. Mary’s game he thought the moment might have been too big for Jackson. He felt the game against the Seahawks was a good time to ease Jackson into the starting lineup, and he proved Turgeon right. Jackson was the quietest of the three freshmen, but still played well, following up his 17-point performance against Georgetown with six points and 10 boards. It seems Huerter, Cowan and Jackson have earned the trust of the coaching staff and solidified themselves into the upper-echelon of the Terps’ rotation. There has been some disappointing play from several of Maryland’s returning players, but these freshmen have cushioned the blow. Their production is a necessity for success going forward.
- The progress of Ivan Bender
Before the season started, Turgeon named Bender as his most improved player. Turgeon said he started Bender in Maryland’s private scrimmage and appeared excited to show him off to Terps fans. Then in late October, he fractured his left wrist. It didn’t hold him out long, though. He played in each of Maryland’s first three games with tape around his wrist, but the injury noticeably held him back. However, he has looked more comfortable in each passing game, and we have seen glimpses of the player Turgeon heralded a few weeks ago. Bender’s continued progress will be crucial for Maryland’s inside depth, especially with the question mark surrounding Cekovsky and his injury concerns.
Edited by Noah Gross.