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No. 21 Maryland men’s basketball vs. Vermont preview

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Maryland will look for its third win of the season in its third game in six days.

No. 21 Maryland men’s basketball will be back at the Xfinity Center for its third game in five days in the opening week of the season. This time, it will be the Vermont Catamounts that will come to College Park as it hopes to pull off the upset on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Maryland is off to a 2-0 start this year, beating Quinnipiac and George Washington earlier this week. Maryland dominated Quinnipiac from start to finish in the opener but had a much tougher time against George Washington on Thursday.

Saturday’s game will be another chance for Maryland to fine-tune some things in nonconference play. The Terps have struggled to shoot the ball from three-point range in their first two games and are hoping they can turn that around against Vermont.

“Making shots is not something we really think about,” point guard Fatts Russell said. “We know the ball is going to go in eventually, so we’re not worried about the offense.”

Vermont Catamounts (1-0, 0-0 America East)

2020-21: 10-5 (10-4, America East)

Head coach John Becker has had an accomplished career with much more left in the tank in his 11th season at the helm of the program. Vermont participates in the America East Conference and is constantly towards the top of the standings. Vermont has finished in the top-three in its conference in each of the last 13 seasons, one of only three teams in the country to do so in their respective conference.

Under Becker, Vermont has made the NCAA Tournament three times and won four America East Tournament titles. Last season, the Cats were regular season conference champions, but failed to win the conference tournament to secure an NCAA Tournament bid. With another solid roster, the Cats look to continue to build on their historic conference success and capture a ticket to the big dance.

While not an elite power five opponent, Vermont is a solid team and will be no walk-over for the Terps.

Players to know

Ryan Davis, senior forward, 6-foot-8, No. 35 — Davis is the best player on the Vermont roster and coming off a terrific season last year where he was named the America East Player of the Year. Last season, he averaged 18.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. He also led the league in field goal percentage. Davis is a 6’8, 250-pound senior who plays down low but is also capable of stepping out and knocking down some jumpers.

Ben Shungu, graduate guard, 6-foot-2, No. 24 — Shungu is a graduate student who has made his impact on the Cats and the rest of the conference during his career at Vermont. Last year, Shungu was a co-captain and started every game. He averaged 10.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season which led him to the America East All-Conference Second Team. Shungu also has made back-to-back all-conference defensive teams.

Isaiah Powell, senior forward, 6-foot-6, No. 14 — Powell is a versatile forward who has made a steady impact in his three years at Vermont. Last season, he started every game and was second on the team in rebounding. In Vermont’s opener on Thursday, he had 17 points and knocked down three triples.

Strength

Shooting. Vermont has a ton of quality shooters and likes to attempt a plethora of three balls. In the two exhibition games before their opener on Thursday, Vermont show 57.9% from the field and 49% from three on 33 attempts. Vermont will look to play with pace and outshoot the Terps to gain an advantage in College Park.

Weakness

Athleticism and speed. With such a small sample size, given this will be Vermont’s second game of the season, it is hard to identify a real weakness, but if past Vermont teams are an indicator, Vermont will struggle to compete athletically with Maryland. That is usually the case when a major conference school goes against a mid-major, but it will be particularly challenging for this Vermont team to compete with the strength, speed and athleticism that Maryland exhibits.

Three things to watch

1. How will Maryland handle three games in six days? While it is early in the season and bodies are presumably fresh, Maryland was tasked with playing three games in six days to open the season, which is sure to take a toll. It will be interesting to see if Turgeon relies more on his bench and players who do not get as much of an opportunity, particularly if the Terps are able to gain a sizable lead early on.

“We're playing a lot of guys,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We’ve got five games in whatever 10 days or whatever we got coming up, so we try to keep guys fresh as we move forward.”

2. Will Maryland have a bounceback shooting performance? Maryland had a disappointing shooting performance in its close win over George Washington on Thursday night. The Terps were 3-for-20 from three for a mark of 15% and 37.5% from the field. Senior guard Eric Ayala was an uncharacteristic 0-for-6 from deep. It has hard to replicate as poor of a shooting performance as the Terps displayed so they will certainly look to improve their shooting numbers against Vermont.

“I believe we’re just gonna continue to shoot and continue to make more shots in any way,” junior guard Hakim Hart said.

3. Will James Graham III be available? Freshman James Graham was not available or with the team last game due to a violation of team protocols. It is not clear what exactly that means or if he will be available on Saturday. When Turgeon was asked following the George Washington win if this would linger into more games, he gave a simple “we’ll see.” Graham played limited minutes in the opening game but there was some potential and excitement surrounding Graham prior to the season.