Maryland men’s basketball hasn’t had a shortage of difficult tests this season, but a trip to West Lafayette, Indiana, and a date with No. 3 Purdue in front of one of the nation’s best crowds at Mackey Arena may be the toughest.
The Terps will head to Purdue with confidence after beating Michigan, 64-58, at XFINITY Center Thursday night. It was a welcomed flipping of the script from Maryland’s 35-point loss at Michigan on Jan. 1, its worst since joining the Big Ten. Maryland remained perfect at home in league play, improving to 12-6 overall and 3-4 in the Big Ten.
Jahmir Young shined once again Thursday, leading the Terps with 26 points despite not hitting a single 3-pointer. He blew by Michigan defenders with ease en route to his third straight 20-point showing. Young is averaging 26.6 points per game in three home Big Ten showings.
Maryland dominated plenty of aspects of the game against the Wolverines. The Terps turned the ball over just six times, an accomplishment head coach Kevin Willard joked would lead to a party at his house Thursday night. Maryland also outscored the Wolverines 14-2 in fast break points and scored 42 points in the paint.
The Terps’ game against the Boilermakers is set for a 1 p.m. tipoff Sunday on FOX Sports 1. KenPom.com projects Purdue as an 11-point favorite.
No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers (18-1, 7-1 Big Ten)
One of the best in the business, head coach Matt Painter has perhaps his most dangerous team. Now in his 18th year at Purdue, Painter has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year four times — the third most in conference history — and earned NABC National Coach of the Year honors in 2019.
The Boilermakers are highly regarded in all metrics, ranking No. 5 on KenPom.com, No. 4 in the NET and No. 6 on BartTorvik.com. Purdue has won five straight games, the most recent being Thursday’s 61-39 disassembling of Minnesota on the road. Purdue’s only loss was a 65-64 home defeat to Rutgers, its second straight year losing to the Scarlet Knights as the No. 1 team in the AP poll.
Purdue holds a two-game lead atop the Big Ten and has -300 odds to win the Big Ten (DraftKings Sportsbook).
Players to know
Zach Edey, junior center, 7-foot-4, No. 15 — How do you stop Edey? It’s a question folks around college basketball have spent endless time pondering, and the formula is not concrete. Edey has taken a massive leap forward this season, averaging 21.3 points, 13 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game while shooting 61.6% from the field. He is No. 1 in KenPom’s Player of the Year standings (by quite a large margin) and leads the nation in offensive rating and offensive rebounding percentage, per the site. The Wooden Award — and every other national player of the year award — is Edey’s to lose.
Fletcher Loyer, freshman guard, 6-foot-4, No. 2 — The younger brother of former Michigan State guard and current Davidson star Foster Loyer, Fletcher Loyer has impressed greatly in his first year of college. The only other player averaging more than 10 points per game for Purdue, Loyer has been an indispensable addition. He took over in crunch time in Purdue’s 64-63 win at Michigan State last Monday, scoring 11 points in the final five minutes and 35 seconds.
Braden Smith, freshman guard, 6-foot, No. 3 — Purdue’s point guard, Smith is another first-year stud that has changed the complexion of the Boilermakers in 2023. Smith is averaging a team-leading 4.3 assists, 9.9 points and 4.9 boards per game. Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 2022 also leads Purdue in 3-point shooting percentage (45.5%) and steals per game (1.2).
Rebounding. Plenty of strongpoints could be pointed out for a team receiving first-place votes in the AP poll, but Purdue’s prowess on the boards especially sticks out. The Boilermakers are the best rebounding team in the Big Ten, leading the conference in rebounds per game (39.8) and rebounding margin (+11.4). Led by Edey, the Boilermakers also have the fifth-best offensive rebounding percentage in the nation (38.5%, per KenPom) and the best in Big Ten play (37.2%, per KenPom). The Boilermakers have a decisive size advantage over the Terps, who will need to have their most disciplined rebounding game of the year.
Turning teams over. Purdue averages just 10.6 takeaways per game, the third worst in the Big Ten; the Boilermakers’ -0.16 turnover margin is also the fourth worst in the conference. Maryland ranks toward the bottom of the Big Ten in turnover percentage — its 19.3% clip is the second worst in the conference, according to KenPom. However, Maryland could create an advantage Sunday if it takes care of the ball like it did against Michigan.
Three things to watch
1. What will be Maryland’s plan for Edey? The Terps did a much better job containing Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson Thursday compared to Jan. 1, sending double teams and breaking out a 2-3 zone. While Dickinson is an All-American center at 7-foot-1, Edey is a different story at 7-foot-4 and 300 pounds. He’s been held to less than 15 points five times this season, but Purdue has won each of those games.
When Michigan State nearly beat Purdue last Monday, Edey was left with a single man on him most times. Spartans head coach Tom Izzo was seemingly fine allowing Edey to score 32 points and take 26 shots, forcing other Boilermakers to beat them — which they nearly didn’t.
Only Willard and his staff know what the gameplan will be for Edey. Starting center Julian Reese did an applaudable job staying out of foul trouble against Dickinson — a theme that has limited his ability to stay on the floor in several games — and 6-foot-11 freshman Caelum Swanton-Rodger played the best minutes of his young collegiate career in relief of backup big Patrick Emilien (ankle). It remains unclear if Emilien will return from a two-game absence against the Boilermakers, though Willard said on Jan. 31 that he would be out “awhile.”
2. Will the Jahmir Young show continue? Young has left no doubt over who is Maryland’s best player. He leads the Terps with 15.8 points and 2.8 assists per game, answering the bell night in and night out. If he has another massive scoring outing Sunday, the Terps will have a puncher’s chance.
3. Can the Terps reverse their road woes? Maryland has lost each of its first four Big Ten road games, with its only road win of the year coming at a lousy Louisville team on Nov. 29. In a league like the Big Ten, though, home-court advantage is imperative. With the exception of Minnesota and maybe Nebraska, the Terps will certainly be underdogs in each of their remaining Big Ten road games. Willard has repeatedly mentioned how a schedule dictates how a team plays, and the Terps have certainly been through the wringer with an arduous slate. The expectation for a Maryland win Sunday is little to none, but a fight on the road against the Big Ten’s best would be an encouraging sign for a team looking to play postseason hoops.