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Maryland men’s basketball vs. Michigan preview

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The Terps are searching for their second conference victory.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
UMTerps

After falling to Rutgers at home, Maryland men’s basketball is back on the road as it gets set to take on the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Terps are 1-5 in conference play and 9-8 overall following the loss to the Scarlet Knights. Maryland entered halftime in that matchup with an 11-point lead but Rutgers outscored the Terps 43-21 in the second half to find the win.

“We have to continue to do the things that we did to get the lead,” interim head coach Danny Manning said. “We got to make sure we handle that prosperity well, we have to make sure that we take it one possession at a time. And that’s been the message to our guys.”

Now, the Terps will look for their second conference win against Michigan on Tuesday.

The game is set for 7 p.m. and will air on ESPN2.

Michigan Wolverines (7-7, 1-3 Big Ten)

2020-21 record: 23-5, 14-3 Big Ten

Head coach Juwan Howard is in his third season at the helm of his alma mater’s program. He returned to Michigan after six years on the Miami Heat’s coaching staff after playing 19 years in the NBA. In his first two years with the Wolverines, the team saw significant success including a 7-0 start to kick off the 2019-20 season. The next year, the team started 11-0, not recording a loss until Jan. 16 against then-No. 23 Minnesota on the road. After that, the Wolverines stayed in the win column until March 2 when it fell to then-No. 4 Illinois.

However, this season, the narrative has been slightly different for the Wolverines. They are off to a 7-7 start and have already dropped three conference games — as many as they did all year during the 2020-21 season. Michigan most recently paused its program for two games postponing its matchups against Michigan State and Purdue so it did not play between its Jan. 4 game against Rutgers and its Jan. 14 game against then-No. 25 Illinois. The Wolverines most recently fell to both the Scarlet Knights and Fighting Illini as well as Central Florida at the end of December.

Players to Know

Hunter Dickinson, sophomore center, 7-foot-1, No. 1 The DeMatha Catholic product absolutely dominated the first time these two teams went at last season. He had 26 points and 11 rebounds en route to Michigan’s 84-73 victory. However, the next time Maryland faced Dickinson and the Wolverines, they allowed the freshman to hit just three points. Dickson has played in every game this season except against Illinois while the program was dealing with coronavirus-related challenges. However, despite playing in 13 games, he leads Michigan in scoring averaging 16.1 points per game. His 8.8 rebounds per game and 13 total blocks also both lead the team and his rebounding rank the fourth-most per game in the conference. Dickinson did not play against Illinois and it unclear whether he play against the Terps, but if he is on the court, he will be looking to make an impact as he’s done all season.

Eli Brooks, graduate guard, 6-foot-1, No. 55 — Behind Dickinson in scoring is Brooks. He is the only other player averaging double-digit scoring at 12.5 points per game. Brooks has scored 10 or more points in 12 of the Wolverines’ 14 matchups. The only two exceptions came against Southern Utah where he recorded just two and Illinois in which he put up seven. Every other game has been 10 points or more and five have been 15-plus point performances. He also has the most successful three-point shots on the team with 24. His 40 assists rank second on the team behind graduate guard DeVante’ Jones and his 16 steals lead the team. Brooks has a large amount of college basketball experience and this season, he is averaging 34.5 minutes per game, the fourth-most in the conference.

Caleb Houstan, freshman guard/forward, 6-foot-8, No. 22 — The freshman has played and started in all 14 games for the Wolverines. He’s averaging 9.2 points per game and 4.5 rebounds. He came into Michigan’s program as a five-star recruit and collected All-American accolades throughout his high school career. Now at Michigan, he's playing an average of 31.1 minutes per game, the second-most on the team behind Brooks, and making the most of his time on the court. Houstan has hit 20 three-point shots, also the second-most on the team and has hit a team-high 25 free throws, tied with Brooks. He's also added nine steals and five blocks to the stat sheet. Houstan has had some lower scoring performances as he does shoot at a 35.3% clip from the field but has scored over 10 points in six matchups including a career-high 17 points against San Diego State.

Strength

Field goal percentage. Although this team ranks in the bottom seven of the Big Ten in most stat categories, they have had a higher field goal percentage than their opponents' average. On 812 attempted shots from the field, the Wolverines had hit 46.3% of them. Michigan’s field goal percentage ranks seventh in the conference. Dickinson leads the team by a landslide from the field with 91 made field goals in 13 games. He’s also averaging 59.1% from the field.

Weakness

Lack of momentum. Unlike in other recent seasons, Michigan has really struggled to get off to a strong start and find its rhythm. Since winning three straight to kick off the season, the Wolverines have not won three in a row since. Their next longest streak was two games and that came against San Diego State and Nebraska at the beginning of December. With postponements due to coronavirus protocols within its program and playing Illinois without Dickinson and forward Brandon Johns Jr. on the court due to those challenges, Michigan has been unable to string together the early-season success it has seen in the past.

Three things to know

1. Will Maryland bounce back from its collapse against Rutgers? Against the Scarlet Knights, Maryland had an 11-point lead going into the locker room. Halftime leads have been rare this season for the Terps and they strung together one of their most complete first halves of the season against Rutgers to earn that lead. However, in the second frame, Maryland appeared to crumble. They were not forcing as many turnovers as they did in the first half nor did they get to the free throw line as many times as they watched their lead diminish. Maryland was coming off a double-overtime victory against Northwestern on the road but when it came to closing the game on Saturday, they could not get it done. Now the Terps have the opportunity to bounce back on the road and find its second conference win.

2. What will the Terps look like against Hunter Dickinson and if Michigan is without him how they will adjust? Maryland has allowed players time and time again this season to score 20-plus points and have career-high performances. Most recently, Rutgers senior guard Ron Harper Jr. put up a career-high 31 points against the Terps. Maryland has faced some of the toughest scorers in the nation in Iowa’s Keegan Murray, Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn and Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis, and although Dickinson does not put up the same numbers they do, Maryland will still have to watch out for the Wolverine’s leading scorer. Against the Scarlet Knights, 6-foot-9 forward Julian Reese started over 6-foot-11 Qudus Wahab for the first time this season. Manning mentioned after that game that the two will probably continue to flip who starts throughout the season and will be interesting how Manning chooses to approach Dickinson in this one.

If he does not play, it may open the door for the Terps to open up a bit more on the floor as they did against Illinois when Cockburn sat on the bench early in the game due to foul trouble.

“We’re expecting all of their guys to be available to play and if they’re not, we go from there... you got to prepare like they’re gonna put their best team out there on the court and you make adjustments from there,” Manning said.

3. Can Maryland find a way to defeat Michigan on the road for just the second time? Michigan holds a 5-1 advantage over the Terps in Ann Arbor. The last and only time Maryland defeated the Wolverines on their home court was Jan. 7, 2017. Maryland walked away with a 77-70 victory as Justin Jackson and Damonte Dodd put up 15 points each for the Terps. With Michigan’s inability to find its momentum this season and standing at .500 with seven wins, Maryland has the opportunity to add this win and to slightly close a gap on a series it trails 7-11. To do so, the Terps will have to put together a complete performance start to finish but if they play the way they have in some of their stronger moments, they may have the opportunity to walk out of Ann Arbor with its second conference win and its second away win in the all-time series.

“Every game that we’ve played in we’ve put ourselves in a situation where we know we could compete with our opponents and now it’s just a matter of finishing the performance,” Manning said.