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No. 20 Maryland men’s basketball vs. Hofstra preview

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The Terps will play at home one more time before heading on the road.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

No. 20 Maryland men’s basketball will need to have quite the quick memory.

After a crushing upset loss to the George Mason in College Park this past Wednesday, the Terps will have another crack at it at home on Friday in a matchup with Hofstra.

Looking at the Terps’ first loss of the season, not many things went their way. George Mason went up by one point at the half and outscored Maryland 39-35 over the final 20 minutes to secure the victory. Forward Donta Scott had a team-high 18 points, but elsewhere the Terps struggled to find production. Guard Eric Ayala had 17 but shot 6-for-17, Fatts Russell had just two points and center Qudus Wahab was limited to eight.

“George Mason was terrific let’s be real, defensively they were great, they’re on a string with each other,” head coach Mark Turgeon said after the loss. “They were really good and our defense wasn’t. We made a lot of mistakes defensively.”

Maryland, which now sits with a 3-1 record, will now need to bounce back quicker than ever with a decent Hofstra team coming into College Park.

“We gotta make a statement... we can’t be coming out slow,” Ayala said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to go out and show what we really can do... so I’m excited to practice tomorrow and I’m looking forward to playing on Friday.”

The game is set to tip at 6:30 p.m. and will air on FS1. Here’s everything you need to know about the Pride.

Hofstra Pride (1-2, 0-0 Colonial Athletic Association)

2020-21 record: (13-10, 8-6 CAA)

Head coach Speedy Claxton, who graduated from Hofstra in 2000, made the move to become the head coach of the program in early April this year. He was named as the 13th head coach in program history. Claxton was a two-time All-American and America East Player of the Year during his playing career with the Pride and he’s been a member of the men’s basketball coaching staff since 2013.

Claxton inherited a team that captured 13 wins a season ago when he was the assistant coach. The Pride ended with a 13-10 overall record and the program opted to move forward with Claxton as the new man in charge. So far in 2021, Hofstra has just one win in three games, though it has lost to quality teams like No. 15 Houston and Iona.

Players to know

Zach Cooks, graduate guard, 5-foot-11, No. 3 — If you’re looking for the workhorse player that’s going to do a little of everything for your program, don’t look past Zach Cooks. The guard has averaged nearly 42 minutes per game in three starts this season and he’s made the most out of his opportunities on the floor. Cooks averaged 22 points per game, the most on the team, and he’s shooting at a 45.5% clip from the field. He’s hit the most three-pointers through three matchups and he also averages 4.7 rebounds per game. Cooks has also generated four steals and 11 assists, both of which are the second-highest on the roster. Cooks is a do-it-all type of player and he’ll presumably be all over the court when Maryland plays Hofstra.

Jalen Ray, graduate guard, 6-foot-2, No. 20 — Right next to Cooks is Jalen Ray, an experienced player that has only played in one game this season due to injury. Ray made his first appearance of the season in the Pride’s loss to Iona a few days ago. And right away, it’s easy to tell the kind of impact he has on the offensive end. Ray played for 27 minutes and scored 20 points, finishing 6-for-8 from three-point range and adding two rebounds. If someone is going to get hot from beyond the arc against the Terps on Friday night, the best bet to do it will be Ray.

Abayomi Iyiola, redshirt senior forward, 6-foot-10, No. 35 — Maryland center Qudus Wahab will meet his match on Friday. Abayomi Iyiola is the big man to look out for in this matchup because he’s just one inch shorter than the massive Wahab. The redshirt senior has started in all three games for the Pride this season, recording an average of eight points and a team-high 9.3 rebounds per game, which is three more than the next best player on the roster. Iyiola may only average eight points per contest, but he’s only attempted 16 shots. He’s hit 12 of those. Iyiola is an efficient big man that’ll have a showdown with Wahab.

Strength

Defending the three. Hofstra may have a negative scoring differential on average, but where it does do well is defending from beyond the arc. Through three games, teams are only shooting just above 30% from deep. That aspect of the defense will surely come to play against Maryland, a program that has visibly struggled from three-point range so far this season.

Weakness

Turnovers. Look for Maryland’s defense to be aggressive on Friday, and for good reason. The Pride turn the ball over 13.3 times per game and it allows over 13 points off of turnovers per contest to its opponent. The Terps’ excellent length on defense will likely come into the play and we might see a turnover-heavy day from Hofstra.

Three things to watch

1. How will the playing time be split up between Qudus Wahab and Julian Reese? George Mason did an excellent job of double-teaming Wahab on Wednesday night. That’s something that Turgeon reiterated after the game. Turgeon opted to utilize freshman forward Julian Reese for about seven more minutes on the floor than the Georgetown transfer. Reese made the most of his opportunities, going 4-for-4 from the field and hitting 12 points, and he was the big man Turgeon turned to late in the game.

“It felt great to have my coach put the trust in me, you know, I’m a young freshman, it’s really my first clutch game,” Reese said after playing down the stretch.

Wahab, who was a standout in the opening two games of the season, scored eight points in the 16 minutes he played. It’s clear that Turgeon sees Reese as a more versatile forward, and it’ll be interesting to see how much time Reese gets off the bench come Friday.

2. Will Hakim Hart show something offensively? If you need to find someone to look to for more offense, look no further than Hakim Hart. The 6-foot-8 guard has vanished from any sort of offensive production through four games this season after averaging over seven points per game in 2020-21. Hart has played at least 20 minutes per game, but he has scored just 14 points. In three of the four games, he’s scored two or fewer points. Hart will need to make some adjustments to his offense if Maryland hopes to succeed.

3. How quickly can Fatts Russell bounce back? The transfer guard from Rhode Island has quickly become a College Park fan favorite just four games into the season, but his last outing against George Mason was one to forget. Russell played for 31 minutes and only came away with two points on 1-for-7 shooting. His previous season-low for a single game was 12 points. Russell will obviously get a healthy amount of minutes against Hofstra, however, the Terps desperately need him to play at the top of his game to avoid any kind of upset.