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Maryland men’s basketball vs. Lehigh preview

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The Terps rescheduled their Tuesday game and will now face off with Lehigh at home.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

After swapping one Patriot League team for another, Maryland men’s basketball is back in action tomorrow to face the Lehigh Mountain Hawks in College Park. The matchup with the Mountain Hawks will be the Terps’ second-to-last nonconference game of the season.

Maryland was forced to reschedule its Tuesday game, which was originally supposed to be against Loyola (Md.), but problems with COVID-19 in the Greyhounds’ program canceled that contest.

“This is something we were hoping to avoid this season having gone through what we went through last year,” interim head coach Danny Manning said. “But you also know that a lot of it is out of your control and you try to control what you can with your bubble and making sure that we give ourselves an opportunity to have a chance to play and that’s the best that we can do.”

Maryland will be 16 days removed from its last game, which came against then-No. 20 Florida at the Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational. Manning captured his first victory as Maryland’s interim head coach with the two-point win over Florida, snapping the program’s three-game losing streak to improve to 6-4 on the season.

“This is probably the longest break I’ve ever experienced with a basketball team,” Manning said. “And so for us, you want to knock the rust off, getting up and down the court, and you get a chance to do that in a game environment, which is always good. And so we’re excited to get back out on the court and play a game. We have to continue to build on what we did the last time we stepped out on the court with Florida and go from there.”

The Terps are now 1-1 since the departure of former head coach Mark Turgeon and they are approaching what will likely be a challenging Big Ten schedule that continues in early January.

Let’s take a look at Tuesday’s matchup against the Mountain Hawks. The game will have an 8:30 p.m. tipoff and it will air on Big Ten Network.

Lehigh Mountain Hawks (1-9, 0-0 Patriot League)

2020-21: 4-11 (4-10, Patriot League)

Dr. Brett Reed, the head coach of Lehigh’s men’s basketball program, is the winningest coach in team history. He has been the head coach of the program for now 15 years, including the 2021-22 campaign. Another fun fact about Reed, he's also one of just two head coaches in the entire nation to have earned their doctorate degrees.

Lehigh has mightily struggled so far this season. The Mountain Hawks have secured just one win in 10 games this season, currently placing them in the basement of the Patriot League. Lehigh has lost its last five games and hasn’t won since Nov. 23, when it captured its lone win over Columbia on its home court. Lehigh is one of the lowest-ranked teams in the nation in the KenPom ratings as it is ranked program No. 327 out of 358.

Players to know

Evan Taylor, junior guard, 6-foot-6, No. 5 — As one of the more well-rounded scorers on the Mountain Hawks’ roster, Evan Taylor is likely the best option on offense for Lehigh. Taylor averages a team-high 11.6 points per game and just about 30 minutes on the floor per game. His nine total steals and 10 blocks both rank second on the team, and he’s also extremely efficient. He shoots over 41% from the field and has only committed 11 turnovers this season, a much lower mark than the other members of the typical Lehigh starting five. Taylor will get the ball early and often, and not to mention he averages 5.9 rebounds per game as well.

Jeameril Wilson, senior forward, 6-foot-7, No. 1 — Jeameril Wilson is the second-best scorer on the team and his efficiency is stellar. He averages 11.5 points per game, but his excellent shooting percentage is what makes him effective. He shoots at a 58.2% clip from the field and 35% from three-point range. He hasn’t attempted double-digit shots in his last six games, but he has scored in double-figures in four of them. Wilson is a solid player and a good scorer. It would not be surprising in the slightest to see him out there for the majority of the game against Maryland in an effort to combat the likes of 6-foot-11 Qudus Wahab and 6-foot-9 Julian Reese.

Dominic Parolin, sophomore forward/center, 6-foot-8, No. 35 — Dominic Parolin is the big man to be looking out for in the paint when the Terps hit the floor on Tuesday night. Parolin is one of the taller players on the roster and he averaged the fourth-most minutes per game on the team with 26.6. He scores seven points per game and shoots nearly 45% from the field. Parolin is the best rebounder on Lehigh with 6.7 per contest and his 12 total blocks lead the program this season.

Strength

Rebounding. Despite being just 1-9, the Mountain Hawks’ rebounding margin isn’t quite as bad as one would expect. Lehigh averages 34.1 rebounds per game, just 1.6 less than its opponent’s averages. There have been times where Maryland hasn't gotten the job done on the boards and that’s something it’ll need to patch up against Lehigh to avoid an upset.

Weakness

Turnovers. Lehigh has a tendency to commit plenty of turnovers over the course of a 40-minute game. The Mountain Hawks average 16.6 turnovers per game and possess a -5.9 turnover margin this season. That 16.6 per game mark is 334th in the nation, per the NCAA’s statistics. Expect Maryland to get out in transition quite a lot against the Mountain Hawks as it forces its opponents into an average of 11.6 turnovers per game.

Three things to watch

1. Will Maryland’s top guards continue their momentum into Tuesday? Maryland was fortunate to upset Florida. A big reason as to why it came away with a win was because of the production senior guard Eric Ayala and transfer guard Fatts Russell gave it. The team’s top backcourt duo combined for 38 points on 13-for-24 shooting and helped the Terps stay in the game the entire way. Before that upset victory, both Russell and Ayala struggled with their efficiency. The showing against the Gators was a step in the right direction and they’ll need to prove they can do it on a consistent basis in the Lehigh matchup.

2. Can Hakim Hart keep up his magical play on the offensive end? Hart may have just been the best player on the floor for Manning in the last two games. The junior guard has scored in double-figures in his past two games with 18 and 11 points. His shooting has caught fire as of late and he has hit 10 of his past 16 attempts from the floor, including going 5-for-8 from deep in the last two contests. Lately, he has been the spark that many expected him to be and it would be encouraging for Maryland to see him continue to produce.

3. Will Maryland take care of business at home? Lehigh is one of the weakest teams in Division I basketball at the moment with a No. 327 ranking in KenPom. A loss to the Mountain Hawks would spell disaster for the Terps and this is certainly a game they are expected to handle. Maryland hasn’t played since Dec. 12, but it will need to leave no doubt in its next two games that will come against Lehigh then Brown. Soon after the end of nonconference play, Maryland will be thrown into the gauntlet with road matchups against Iowa and Illinois and the first week of January. These nonconference matchups are the types of games that the Terps will need to win decisively and it all starts with a meeting with the Mountain Hawks.