After its first five games at home, Maryland men’s basketball has left College Park and is headed down to the Bahamas for the Thanksgiving Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship. It is the first time Maryland will play in the Bahamas in the team's history.
The Terps are 4-1 to start the season, but it hasn't come without some sloppy, poor performances on both ends of the floor that has made games in which Maryland was the heavy favorite, much closer than expected.
Last week, Maryland was ranked No. 20 in the AP poll, but after losing to George Mason and barely escaping Hofstra this past week, the Terps have fallen out of the top-25. Head coach Mark Turgeon’s squad will have an opportunity to prove itself once again against legitimate competition when it takes on Richmond on Thursday and either Louisville or Mississippi State on Saturday.
“You might fall in the trap of feeling like its vacation, but I feel like we’re gonna be locked in and we have some really good games out there and we should be prepared for them,” point guard Fatts Russell said.
Richmond Spiders (3-2, 0-0 Atlantic 10)
2020-21: (14-9, 6-5 A10)
Richmond is a perennial threat in the Atlantic 10 conference and a worthy opponent this season, despite a rocky start. Head coach Chris Mooney is in his 17th season with the program and the winningest basketball coach in the school's history. Mooney has led the spiders to two NCAA Tournament appearances and a total of eight postseason appearances.
Maryland has struggled with Atlantic 10 opponents this season, losing to George Mason and overcoming a halftime deficit to defeat George Washington. Richmond is another team that can cause Maryland problems. Most recently, Richmond defeated Hofstra by 13 points, the same Hofstra team that Maryland beat on game-winning free throws last Friday night.
“They’re going to score, obviously, they’re a good team, but hopefully we’ll be locked in and make them make tough shots,” Turgeon said.
Players to know
Tyler Burton, junior forward, 6-foot-7, No. 3 — Burton has been a star for this Richmond team, leading the group in scoring with 19.8 points per game, which included a 30-point performance against Drake earlier this season. Burton is a do-it-all offensive threat who can score from the inside but also takes an abundance of threes. He has made 58% of his threes through five games.
Grant Golden, graduate forward, 6-foot-10, No. 33 — Grant is another big body that pounds the ball inside and likes to play near the rim, but when needed can step out and knock down perimeter shots. He is second on the team in scoring with 17.6 points per game, but he is also a terrific passer for a big man. He has the second-most assists on the team.
Jacob Gilyard, graduate guard, 5-foot-9, No. 0 — Gilyard runs the show for the Spiders, dishing out to his teammates, but also scoring when necessary. He leads the team in assists with six per game and averages 11 points per game. He is not a great outside shooter but controls the game with his speed and decision-making.
Experience. This is an experienced Richmond team that won't be frazzled with anything Maryland throws its way. Four of the Spiders' top-five leading scorers are graduate students with a plethora of college basketball games under their belt. Experience can be helpful throughout a season, but particularly when playing in a holiday tournament in a foreign location.
Defense. Richmond struggles to consistently get stops and has a ton of weaknesses defensively. They give up 72.8 points per game and allow teams to shoot 45% from the field. Richmond has a high-powered offense that allows them to stay in games, but they certainly don't want to get into a foot race with a team like Maryland.
Three things to watch
1. Will Maryland’s shooting improve? The Terps are shooting 25% from three through the first five games, their worst shooting start to the season in at least seven years. The shooting woes Maryland has experienced put the team in a position to struggle against lesser opponents to start the season. If Maryland is going to have success in the Bahamas and against stronger opponents moving forward, the shooting must improve.
2. How will Turgeon split Julian Reese and Qudus Wahab’s playing time up? Freshman Julian Reese has been a gem for Maryland so far this season, showcasing his rim running and finishing ability, along with his defensive versatility. Because of Reese’s quick development, transfer center Qudus Wahab’s playing time has decreased. Reese played more minutes than Wahab in the last two games, and last game, Wahab did not play a single minute in the second half. Turgeon said that was due to the team deciding to go small in the second half and that Wahab is still the starter, but it will be interesting to see how the minutes are distributed this weekend.
“Hopefully down the road, playing those two [Wahab and Reese] together,” Turgeon said. “The matchups have just been so tough.”
3. How will Maryland handle its first test away from home? The Terps have played every game so far this season on their home court, and while this is not a true road game as it’s played at a neutral site, it won't have the atmosphere of a home game. With all the luxuries the Bahamas has to offer, Maryland will need to stay focused and take care of business away from home on Thursday and Saturday.
“You know, in an environment like this where it is our first game away, I think we’re kind of excited just to see a different arena and just to play somewhere else,” guard Eric Ayala said.