Photo courtesy of UM Terps

Despite high ranking, Maryland is not overlooking their opponents

The No. 6 Maryland Terrapins continue their home stand on Tuesday night as they take on the Fairfield Stags. After cruising to an 80-50 victory on Saturday against Oakland, the Terps are looking to start 4-0 for the sixth consecutive season.

The Stags will enter the contest 1-3, with their only win coming against Holy Cross in overtime. They are led by junior Jesus Cruz, who comes in averaging 19 points a game. Cruz, a native of Puerto Rico, has an old school game using the size on his 6’5” frame to attack the basket and power through defenders. 

Jay Young, a first year head coach who was previously an assistant at Rutgers, has the Stags playing a much slower, half court game this season. They average 64 possessions per game, which ranks in the bottom half in the country. Look for Maryland, which averages 73 possessions per game, to try and speed up the Stags like they did to Oakland Saturday.

“I feel like that’s one of our strong suits, getting out in transition. Like I’ve said before, I’m an athlete, we’ve got a lot of athletes on this team,” said junior Darryl Morsell. “I like to get up and down and make it a track meet.”

The Terps are currently playing the easiest part of their schedule. They are in the middle of five straight home games before playing in a Thanksgiving tournament in Orlando. Mark Turgeon’s squad does not play a true road game until December 10th against Penn State and likely won’t face a ranked team until December 19th against No. 13 Seton Hall. Despite the lackluster strength of their opponents, Maryland is not overlooking anybody.

“We’re just having fun and making it about us. Not really thinking about the opponent, but making sure we’re getting better as a team,” said sophomore Eric Ayala. “Coach asks us to have specific goals going into these games and making sure we execute those.”

However, this lighter part of the schedule has allowed Turgeon to get creative. He can experiment with several types of defenses and lineups. Whether it’s a two big lineup featuring Jalen Smith and a Mitchell twin or a four guard lineup with Morsell playing power forward, Turgeon is getting an opportunity to see what gels best. 

Turgeon has gone big the last two games, starting Makhi Mitchell next to Smith. But with Fairfield not having as much size, I would expect Turgeon to switch things up. Mitchell has gotten into some foul trouble, committing seven in the past two games. He was limited to just seven minutes on Saturday. 

“It just takes time. They (both Mitchell twins) are really getting in a stance. Their post defense was terrific the other night,” Turgeon said. “There were a lot of positives in those seven minutes, it was just those two…three fouls.”

Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. and the game can be viewed on the Big Ten Network.