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Maryland men’s basketball vs. Brown preview

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The Terps’ last nonconference game of the season will come against Brown.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
UMTerps

Maryland men’s basketball is back in action just two days after it took on Lehigh in the Xfinity Center. In that matchup, the Terps started out slow but a second-half surge propelled them to their seventh win of the season.

“Just taking it one game at a time, just trying to get a win,” senior guard Eric Ayala said. “We’re trying to change the narrative on our season and I think we’re on the right trajectory as a team.”

Now, the Terps stay at home to close out regular season nonconference play against Brown. The game is set to tip at 7 p.m. on Thursday and will air on the Big Ten Network.

Brown Bears (8-6, 0-0 Ivy)

2020-21 record: none, season canceled due to coronavirus pandemic

Head coach Mike Martin is in his 10th year at the helm of the Brown men’s basketball team. The head coach was a starter for the Bears when he was in college and helped lead his 2004 class to a 39-17 program-high conference record during his time on the team. Martin and the Bears are coming off successful 2018-19 and 2019-20 campaigns in which the team collected 35 wins over those two seasons, the most in a two-year span in program history.

This season, the Bears started off with a win before traveling to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to take on the then-No. 19 North Carolina Tar Heels. Brown kept it close, even outscoring North Carolina in the first half 50-47, but ultimately fell 94-87 marking its first loss of the season. Since then, the Bears have collected wins over Central Connecticut, Johnson & Wales, Bradley, Quinnipiac, UMass Lowell, Sacred Heart and Merrimack. Other than its most recent 93-62 loss against Syracuse and its loss to Creighton, Brown’s losses to Vermont, Bryant and Colorado, were all six or fewer point games.

Players to know

Kino Lilly Jr., freshman guard, 6-foot, No. 10 — Lilly Jr. is in his first season with the Bears but has been nothing short of impactful. In high school, the Glenn Dale, Maryland native played for DC Premier, the same AAU team Maryland sophomore guard Marcus Dockery played on. Lilly Jr. leads the team in points, averaging 12.2 per game as well as assists in which he’s dished out 35. The freshman also leads the team in steals (20) and successful three-point shots (32). After his performances against Merrimack and Vermont in which he averaged 14 points, four assists and two steals while shooting 50% from the field and 41.7% from deep, Lilly Jr. earned Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors.

Paxson Wojcik, junior guard, 6-foot-5, No. 32 — Wojcik is another new addition to this Bears roster as he transferred in the offseason from Loyola-Chicago. In two seasons with the Ramblers, he saw the court in 45 games and similar to Lilly Jr., has made an immediate impact at Brown. Wojcik is averaging the second-most points on the team with 10.8 per game and the second-most successful shots from behind the arc with 21. He’s averaging the most minutes on the team with 29.2 per game.

Tamenang Choh, graduate forward, 6-foot-5, No. 25 — Although Brown’s roster has some new faces, Choh is in his fifth year with the program, the fourth season due to the canceled 2020-21 season. Lilly Jr. and Wojcik are averaging 12.2 and 10.8 points per game in 13 games and Choh ranks third on the team in scoring with 10.0 per game, in just 10 games. The graduate student was out for a few games in November, including the close loss to UNC, with a hip injury. He also leads the team on the boards with 7.7 rebounds per game. Choh most recently has put up double-digit scoring numbers in four consecutive games and has done so in the span of just 10 days. He hit the millennium mark when he scored his 1,000th career point of part of a career-high 26-point performance at UMass Lowell, his hometown. After that game and the Sacred Hart win, Choh earned Ivy League Player of the Week.

Strength

Distributing the scoring. The Bears have been generating points from all levels and are averaging 72.8 points per game, 4.1 points more than the Terps. Brown is shooting 43.8% from the field, 32.1% from deep and 74.0% from the charity stripe. Although the team’s shooting percentages have not been exceptionally high, they have been getting the job done and the Bears have five players averaging over eight points, four averaging nearly 10 or more. Brown is sinking an average of 26.4 shots from the field and 7.6 from deep per game. The Bears also have 162 assists, which is good enough for 12.5 per game.

Weakness

Losing close games. As pointed out earlier, half of Brown’s losses have been decided by six or fewer points. The North Carolina loss was decided by just seven points and the outliers came against Creighton and Syracuse in which the Bears lost by 21 and 31 points, respectively. Maryland has had eight games decided by eight or fewer points this season it will be interesting to see if this is a close matchup and if that’s the case, whether either team will be able to pull away late in the game for a greater margin.

Three things to watch

1. Will Hakim Hart and Eric Ayala keep their momentum going? Both Hart and Ayala have been on a hot streak as of late and it couldn’t be a better time for the duo to be playing as they have been with the team preparing for conference play. Ayala has scored 10, 19 and 20 points in the last three games, respectively. His 20 points against Lehigh marked the third time this season he scored 20 or more points. Hart added 10 points but his contributions on the defensive end continued. Hart added a career-high steals, the most from a Terp since now-NBA guard Aaron Wiggins did so against Delaware in 2018.

2. What will the Terps shooting performance look like? Headed into the matchup against Lehigh, Maryland was on a stretch of struggling on the offensive side of the ball. The Terps had the No. 11 offense in the Big Ten averaging just 68.7 points per game. Maryland also had the No. 12 field goal percentage at 41.6% the No. 11 shot percentage from deep with 31.0%. Maryland’s 62 field goals made ahead of the Lehigh game also ranked second to last in the conference only ahead of Rutgers who had 52. Against Lehigh, Maryland was able to capitalize and pick up the pace. The Terps scored 76 points, 24 baskets from the field, including five from deep.

3. Will Maryland set the tone for Big Ten play? Although Brown has kept many games close, it most recently lost by a wide margin to Syracuse. The Terps have won two in a row under Manning and have one more push before facing traveling to Iowa City, Iowa to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes. Maryland already dropped one conference game when it fell to Northwestern on Dec. 5, Manning’s first game as interim head coach. Brown sits towards the upper half of the Ivy League and came close to upsetting a ranked team without one of its top players. The Bears may prove to be a tough opponent for the Terps, but they will be a good test as Maryland heads into a loaded conference slate.