Maryland Terrapins-Lafayette Leopards Preview: Cupcake III: Cupcake With A Vengeance

Jason Szenes

After two straight home wins, Maryland looks to make it three in a row as they welcome Lafayette to the Comcast Center on Tuesday night.

(Note: This is a re-alignment free zone).

What: Maryland hosts 1-3 Lafayette in their third home game, in what is actually the Terps' final game of the Barclays Center Classic.

When and Where: 8:00 in the Comcast Center, College Park, Md.

Where to Watch: CSN.

Line: None that I could find.

Notes / Storylines

The Big Three? Terp fans expected Maryland to have three big scorers this year, with Nick Faust, Alex Len and Dez Wells all in the lineup. While the latter two have proven to be a worthy of that designation, it is Seth Allen who has been the breakout guard. The true freshman scored 19 against LIU, with five three pointers, and is averaging 10.3 points per game with 3.3 assists. Meanwhile, Len leads the team in points (17.3), rebounds (8.7), minutes (29.3) and blocks (3.7), while shooting over 55% from the floor. Wells is coming off his best game in a Terrapin uniform, scoring 15 points with eight rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals against LIU, and is averaging 10.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game.

The shooting. Well, is it really better? After a scary outing against Kentucky and an improved performance against Morehead State, Maryland finally put it together against LIU. The Terps shot 56.5% from the floor while making eight of their 12 three-point attempts (still only making 65% of their free throws).

That 56.5% number was still dragged down by another bad performance from Faust, who was two of eight from the floor. The aforementioned "Big Three" made 21 of their 34 attempts (61.7%), while solid efforts from Jake Layman (two of three) and Shaquille Cleare (four of five) helped boost that number.

Is it time to talk about Nick Faust? Probably not, but in two of his three games this year he's shot at or around the 25% clip. Not exactly the production Maryland was expecting, but it is extremely early (and he's averaging nearly two steals per game).

Turnovers. Maryland's been, well, really good at not giving the ball on way [furiously knocks on wood]. Despite his scoring troubles, a lot of that can be attributed to Pe'Shon Howard, who is averaging 8.3 assists against 2.0 turnovers per game, but the freshmen are doing well, too - in fact, Charles Mitchell (2.3) is the only player with more turnovers per game than MVPe'.

Wrapping up the Barclays Center Classic. We thought it was over last weekend against LIU, but Lafayette was in this "tournament" as well, so it counts. Will Maryland finish 3-1? Will anybody care? Will Jay-Z show up? We're going with one yes, two no. You decide which.

Will the Terps crack 90 again? After scoring a season-high 91 against Long Island, they face a Lafayette defense that has given up an average of 89.8 points per game. So, probably.

The Opponent (An Overview)

Lafayette is 1-3 this season, with their sole win coming in a 98-94 overtime affair against Long Island and losses coming against St. Francis (76-65), Kentucky (101-49) and Morehead State (88-74). They went 13-18 last year, with a 7-7 record in the Patriot League (good for fifth place), and have made it to the tournament three times without winning a game (most recently in 2000).

Let's run down the Leopards' team. At point guard they have Tony Johnson, one of only three returning players who played a significant role (20 minutes per game or more) on last year's team (the other two join him at the starting guard slots). After hovering around eight points and four assists per game over the past two years, Johnson has started this season out well, with 12.8 points per game and 5.3 assists per game. With that added aggressiveness has come an increase in turnovers, however - while he was steadily below 2.0 per game in each of his first three seasons, so far this year Johnson is averaging 3.3 turnovers per game. The senior had ten assists against Morehead State but his scoring has decreased in each game this season, for what that's worth.

At shooting guard is Joey Ptasinski, who is averaging 12 points per game this season. He's coming off a 23 points performance against Morehead State where he hit seven of 13 three-point attempts, and in general is a great shooter from beyond the arc - this year he's hit 42.9% of his attempts, slightly down from last season's 45.7% mark.

At big guard (they list him as a guard so this is my guard equivalent of a small forward) is Seth Hinrichs, another good shooter. He's averaging 14.5 points per game and score 20 against Long Island with three three pointers against St. Francis. He's also averaging 4.3 rebounds per game and he's one of those large shooters that every team struggles to defend.

At power forward is Alan Flannigan, filling in for the injured Dan Trist (more on that in a second). Flannigan has been...struggling, at 1.5 points per game and 3.3 rebounds per game, and is the definite weak spot on this team if he spots.

Trist, a 6'9' sophomore from Australia, suffered a leg injury in the shoot-around before Kentucky, a game that took place four days ago. He missed both that game and the following one against Morehead State, and his status is unknown for Tuesday. In the season opener against Saint Francis, he scored 16 points, and he single-handedly carried the Leopards to a victory over Long Island with 30. He shot a perfect seven of seven and 14 of 18 in those two games respectively, and has shown a marked improvement from his 5.7 points per game mark last season.

The big man will be 6'9" senior Levi Giese, averaging 5.0 points per game with 4.0 rebounds per game and 2.0 blocks per game - all on par with his career averages if you factor his minutes increase from around 13-14 per game to 24.

Only two of Lafayette's bench players play a significant role - freshmen guards Bryce Scott (7.0 points per game, including 17 against Morehead State) and Zach Rufer (2.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game).

Expected Starting Fives:
Maryland Lafayette
Pe`Shon Howard (Jr., 6-2) Tony Johnson (Sr., 6-0)
Nick Faust (So., 6-6) Joey Ptasinski (So., 6-2)
Dezmine Wells (So., 6-5) Seth Hinrichs (So., 6-7)
James Padgett (Sr., 6-8) Alan Flannigan (So., 6-6)
Alex Len (So., 7-1) Levi Giese (Sr., 6-9)

Matchup to Watch:

If Trist plays, it's Padgett vs. Trist, with Maryland's most experienced starter going up against the Leopards' best. If he's out, it will be Wells against Hinrichs - with Maryland having a serious advantage in athleticism and Lafayette having one in height and shooting.

Four Factors:



Prediction:

Maryland 94, Lafayette 72. That's assuming Trist doesn't play. If he does, it will be (slightly) closer. The Leopards just don't have enough defense to contend against the Terrapins, and without Trist, Flannigan is a gaping hole in their starting lineup. They lack a serious inside presence, and Len, Wells and co. will win this one with ease.
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