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Maryland men’s basketball preview vs. Iowa

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Maryland is looking for its fourth straight win.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
UMTerps

Maryland is in the midst of a three-game winning streak for the first time since the opening three games of the season. The Terps wrapped up nonconference play with wins against Lehigh and Brown last week and will now head into strictly Big Ten play.

That begins on Monday night against Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa at 9 p.m. in Maryland’s first true road game of the season.

Maryland has been playing better lately in large part due to a balanced scoring attack from the Terps starters. Veterans Eric Ayala and Donta Scott have been more aggressive and scoring with more efficiency in recent outings, while Hakim Hart has been phenomenal on both ends of the floor.

Last game against Brown, four players had at least 15 points, including point guard Fatts Russell who had 18 points after being considered a game-time decision after hitting his knee against a Lehigh player.

Maryland will be tested when they head to Iowa to take on a talented and experienced team that has been consistently toward the top of the Big Ten in recent years.

“We have a great opportunity ahead of us and it’s going to be a challenge because Iowa’s really good,” interim head coach Danny Manning said.

Iowa Hawkeyes (10-3, 0-2 Big Ten)

2020-21 record: 22-9, 15-7

Iowa is off to another great start this season, continuing to establish itself as one of the dominant teams in the Big Ten. After losing many key pieces to last year's formidable team, including Naismith Player of the Year Luka Garza, who went to the NBA, the Hawkeyes weren't expected to have a great season.

However, through the early goings and its nonconference schedule, Iowa is impressing the college basketball world. Head coach Fran McCaffery is impressing this season as the third longest-tenured coach in the Big Ten with just three losses through 13 games. While Iowa does not have a ton of impressive wins, it did beat Virginia. The Hawkeyes' three losses came consecutively to Purdue, Illinois and Iowa State — all worthy opponents.

Iowa will certainly compete toward the top of the conference this season and Maryland will have its hands full in Iowa City.

Players to know

Keegan Murray, sophomore guard, 6-foot-8, No. 15 — Murray is the engine behind this Iowa offense. The sophomore is averaging 23.7 points per game on 58% shooting from the field. He can score from all over the floor and is also a massive threat on the boards, pulling in 8.2 rebounds per game. Murray is a force that is going to require multiple bodies thrown his way to stop him.

Patrick McCaffery, sophomore forward, 6-foot-9, No. No. 22 — McCaffery is experiencing a substantial minute increase from his freshman to sophomore year and it has led to quality results. The son of the head coach is the team's second-leading scorer, averaging 11.8 points per game and is shooting 31% from three-point range. McCaffery is a shooting threat and can score in a variety of ways.

Jordan Bohannon, redshirt senior guard, 6-foot-1, No. 3 — Bohannon is the experienced guard on the team who is a phenomenal shooter. He has the most three-pointers made in Iowa school history and is shooting 40% from three this season. Bohannon is the team’s No. 3 scorer averaging 10.9 points per game.

Strengths

Shooting. Iowa has a multitude of great shooters it can plug into the lineup that can extend the floor and connect from long range. Even its big man can step outside and knock down threes. The Hawkeyes make 37% of their three-point attempts and shoot 78% from the free throw line. If there is one thing Iowa flourishes in, it’s scoring the ball. This season, they are averaging 90.1 points per game.

“The first thing we have to do is get back in transition because they are an excellent transition team,” Manning said. “We know that they score the basketball and we got to make them shoot contested shots.”

Weakness

Defense. While Iowa has a potent offense, its defense often struggles. Iowa gives up a ton of points per game because of the pace at which they play. This season, Iowa’s opponents are averaging 70.1 points per game against them. Maryland has struggled on offense through various times of the season but will have to take advantage of a poor Iowa defense.

Three things to know

1. Can Maryland avoid another slow start? Maryland has made it a habit to come out slow to start games this season, with poor offense and a lethargic pace. Last week against Lehigh, Maryland only led by three at halftime against an opponent with just one win. They also trailed to Brown at the break last Thursday. The Terps were able to overcome those poor starts and dominate in the second half, but against an opponent like Iowa, especially on the road, it won't be as easy.

2. Will Ayala’s strong play continue? After struggling in the early part of the season, senior guard Eric Ayala has been a bright spot for this Maryland team. The Terps star and leading scorer has been dominant and efficient in recent games. He has scored at least 19 points in the last three games after averaging just seven points in the previous three games. Maryland is going to need Ayala’s scoring prowess to continue into Big Ten play.

“[Eric’s] shooting the ball much better from the perimeter and he’s doing a better job of getting to the free throw line,” Manning said.

3. How will Maryland hold up in the Big Ten? Maryland’s nonconference schedule is over, and while it didn’t go as anticipated, Maryland is still in a position to make some noise in a difficult Big Ten conference and potentially earn an NCAA tournament bid in March. Maryland is on a three-game winning streak and starting to play better but everyone will soon find out if that can continue into perhaps the best and deepest conference in the country. The first test of the season, and of the new year, will be in Iowa City on Monday night.