After dropping its last game to Louisville in the Bahamas, Maryland men’s basketball will have the chance to redeem itself in College Park on Wednesday night. It’ll be a matchup against Virginia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
The Terps stand at 5-2 with seven games played and they have won four out of those five at home. Maryland let its most recent game against the Cardinals get away from it.
“I thought we played excellent against Louisville on the defensive end until last four minutes,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We just have trouble scoring the ball, we have trouble passing the ball, we have trouble moving the ball. It’s something that we continue to work on. We were better there than we were before we went down, hopefully we’ll be better tomorrow night.”
The Terps trailed once again going into halftime, but a second-half surge put them up with a few minutes remaining. However, Louisville pulled away at the end to claim victory in the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship.
“It’s been up and down so far at the beginning of the season,” senior guard Eric Ayala said. “Just taking it one day at a time.”
Maryland plays sparingly in the month of December with just five total games. The Terps will face the Hokies, then Northwestern for their first conference game of the year on Dec. 5.
But first, let’s take a look at what Maryland will be up against this Wednesday. The game is set to begin 7:15 p.m. and it will air on ESPN2.
Virginia Tech Hokies (5-2, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference)
2020-21 record: (15-7, 9-4 ACC)
Head coach Mike Young is one of the more quality coaches in the ACC and around the nation. He has helped the Hokies achieve many accomplishments and he’s now in his third year as the head coach of the program after spending 17 years at the helm of Wofford’s men’s basketball program. Young was named the ACC Coach of the Year last season after he led Virginia Tech to the NCAA Tournament in one of the toughest conferences in the country. Despite being bounced in the first round as a No. 10-seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament, Virginia Tech is once again on the prowl this season. The Hokies are currently receiving votes in the AP Top 25 poll and they’ve jumped out to a 5-2 start.
Players to know
Nahiem Alleyne, junior guard, 6-foot-4, No. 4 — Alleyne is the most polished scorer on this roster and he’s shown exactly that through seven games this season for the Hokies. He averages the most minutes on the team with just over 32 per game and the ability to score from deep is what sticks out immediately. Alleyne averages a team-high 13.1 points per game on a team that loves to spread around the scoring. He’s shooting a crisp 40.6% from three-point range and his free throw shooting is remarkable. The junior is 21-for-22 (95.5%) at the line this season. He’ll be all over the court come Wednesday as he’s the premier scoring option for the Hokies.
Keve Aluma, redshirt senior forward, 6-foot-9, No. 22 — If there’s anyone that center Qudus Wahab and forward Julian Reese should be man-marking down low, it’s Aluma. The experienced forward has been a workhorse for the Hokies so far this season and it’s smart to assume that he’ll be a major part of the Virginia Tech game plan against Maryland. Aluma has put up double-digits in points in all but two games this season. While his three-pointer hasn’t been falling, he’s making up for it in other areas. Aluma still averages 12.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and a 48.5% shooting clip from the field. His seven total blocks lead the team. He's an excellent two-way forward and Maryland will need to keep an eye on him with every Virginia Tech possession.
Justyn Mutts, graduate forward, 6-foot-7, No. 25 — Mutts may not have the tallest frame, but he’s certainly more than impactful when it comes to playing within the paint. The New Jersey native is fourth on the team in points per game with 8.9 per contest. He leads the team in rebounds with just over eight per game as well. But the difference with Mutts is his ability to stretch the floor. He’s taken 14 shots from beyond the arc this season and drained five of them. Mutts is a solid three-level scorer and Maryland should be treating him as such.
Defense. The work on the defensive end has been something that Young has emphasized with this program since coming to Virginia Tech. This season, the Hokies have been stellar on defense. They allow just 52.7 points per game to their opponents and hold them to just 36.7% shooting. Virginia Tech forces other teams into an average of 14.1 turnovers per game. Maryland’s sometimes sloppy offense will be put to the test against a strong defense.
Lack of a star. In the Terps’ seven games to start the season, there have been times when the opposing team’s star players have torched them. Luckily for Maryland, Virginia Tech doesn’t necessarily have that kind of firepower. Its top scorers average 13.1 and 12.6, while it mainly relies on depth scoring. Maryland will not get beat by just one or two players, and if Virginia Tech’s top shooters go cold, the Terps might be able to use it to their advantage.
Three things to watch
1. Will Maryland’s depth players have a bounce-back effort. One of the major things missing in the Terps’ eight-point loss to the Cardinals was the fact that the role players disappeared with their overall production. Forward Julian Reese, guard Ian Martinez and guard Xavier Green all played double-digit minutes for Maryland in the defeat but combined to score just 12 points, with Reese adding seven of those points. That trio didn’t contribute too much on offense and as a result, Maryland failed to hit the 60-point mark for the first time this season. Maryland will need more outside of its starting five moving forward.
2. Can the Terps figure out their rebounding problem? Louisville made easy work of Maryland in the rebounding game last Saturday. Maryland was out-rebounded 51-25 and if it has a similar performance like that against a Virginia Tech team that out-rebounds opponents by three on average, then it won’t find much success. The Terps desperately need players like Wahab, Reese, Donta Scott and even Ayala to crash the boards with purpose to help limit the Hokies possessions. Maybe soon it will be time to see Wahab and Reese on the floor together for an extensive time if Maryland’s rebounding issue persists.
“Louisville is relentless on the boards... we weren’t able to get any offensive rebounds,” Turgeon said. “So like, we did take away their transition, which is a big part of their game... but we weren’t able to get any offensive rebounds. So we got to get more offensive rebounds, one, and we gotta get a lot tougher on the glass.”
3. Will Maryland be able to take advantage of Virginia Tech’s recent losing skid? Even though Maryland has lost two of its last four games, Virginia Tech is coming into Wednesday with a small losing streak of its own. After starting out the season 5-0, the Hokies have dropped their two most recent games, both of which came against ranked teams. Virginia Tech fell to No. 9 Memphis and No. 25 Xavier, though the defeat against the latter was just a one-point loss. Still, the Hokies are coming into Wednesday’s game without any momentum and it’s a prime opportunity for Maryland to pounce on.