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Maryland men’s basketball vs. Northwestern preview

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It’ll be Danny Manning’s first game as the interim head coach.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

A lot has happened with Maryland men’s basketball since Wednesday’s game against Virginia Tech.

After the loss to the Hokies in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, freshman James Graham III transferred and on Friday, the university announced that Mark Turgeon and the program mutually agreed to part ways. Danny Manning, who was previously an assistant coach, will now serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

Now, after starting 5-3, the Terps are set to take on their first Big Ten opponent of the season in the midst of a shift within the program.

The game is set for Sunday at noon and will air on the Big Ten Network.

Northwestern (5-2)

2020-21 record: 9-15 (6-13 Big Ten)

Head coach Chris Collins is in his eighth season at the helm of Northwestern. During the 2016-17 season, he led the team to a program-high 24 wins and brought the Wildcats to their first NCAA Tournament berth and win in program history. Through the first seven games of the season, Collins has amassed a 123-136 record.

This season Northwestern started off 4-0 with wins against Eastern Illinois, High Point, New Orleans and Fairleigh Dickinson. However, in their first matchup of the Legends Classic against Providence, the Wildcats fell 77-72. They quickly bounced back with a win against Georgia but one week later Northwestern picked up its second loss. Northwestern faced Wake Forest in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and outscored the Demon Deacons in the second half forcing the game to overtime. Ultimately, the Wildcats fell 77-73.

Players to know

Pete Nance, senior forward, 6-foot-10, No. 22 — Nance is the leading scorer for the Wildcats currently averaging 17.3 points per game, seventh in the conference, and has a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game, sixth in the conference. His 24 assists rank second on the team and his 14 blocks also are a team-high. In five out of the first seven games, Nance has scored over 15 points and has tallied two double-doubles thus far. His highest-scoring performance came against High Point in which he hit 22 points in 22 minutes on the court.

Boo Buie, junior guard, 6-foot-2, No. 0— Buie ranks second on the team in scoring averaging 16.7 points per game on 41.4% shooting from the field. The guard also has dished out a team-high 44 assists and his average 6.3 per game across seven games lead the Big Ten.

Robbie Beran, junior forward, 6-foot-9, No. 31— Beran has been a strong presence on defense for the Wildcats through the first seven games. He’s tallied 10 steals including a career-high five steal performance for the Wildcats against Eastern Illinois in the season-opener. Nance leads the team in blocking by a landslide but Beran ranks second on the team with three.

Strength

Scoring. The Wildcats are averaging 80.4 points per game and their 46.4 field goal percentage ranks fifth in the conference. Through the first seven games, Northwestern has accumulated a scoring margin of 16.8 points. The Wildcats are also averaging 29.1 field goals per game and 8.7 shots from behind the arc. For comparison, the Terps who have experienced shooting troubles through the first few games of the season are averaging 69.5 points per game, 24.8 field goals and 5.5 from deep.

Weakness

Winning tight matchups. The Wildcats have walked away from some nonconference games with dominant wins however, its two losses to Providence and Wake Forest have been games decided by five and four points, respectively. Although Northwestern outscored both Providence and Wake Forest in the second half, once they fell behind in the first, they were unable to find the final few points.

Three things to watch

1. What will Maryland look like after a coaching change? Friday proved to be a busy day for the Terps as Turgeon and the program mutually agreed to part ways, per a release and Manning was named the interim head coach. Turgeon was at the helm of Maryland men’s basketball 10 full seasons and eight games of the 2021-22 season.

Senior guard Eric Ayala and junior forward Donta Scott have been described as leaders throughout the season and are two of the players who were on a roster with Turgeon as the coach the longest. It will be interesting to see how both of them, along with some of the other players on the roster, bring together the team during this transition period for the program.

2. Can the Terps build a lead in the first half? Maryland has trailed at the half in six of the eight first games and now has an opportunity to turn that around as it heads into its first conference matchup of the season. Against Virginia Tech, it appeared the Terps had the chance to enter the locker room with the lead however a few minutes before half, the Hokies took the lead and pulled ahead. Maryland has the chance to set a new tone in conference play and claim a lead to start the second half.

3. Will Maryland’s bench play a role against the Wildcats? Outside of freshman forward Julian Reese the bench has been quiet in these last few games. Sophomore guard Ian Martinez who put up 13 points against Hofstra, has put up just five combined in the three games since. Against Virginia Tech, the bench scored just nine points, seven of those from Reese who played for 14 minutes. Graduate guard Xavier Green, graduate forward Simon Wright and Ian Martinez played 12 minutes, one minute and 10 minutes, respectively and Green was the only one to get on the board with a two-point basket from the field.