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Maryland men’s basketball vs. Alcorn State preview

The Terps return to nonconference play against the struggling Braves.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 06 Penn State at Maryland Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After two December conference games, Maryland men’s basketball (5-4, 1-1 Big Ten) returns to nonconference play when it hosts Alcorn State on Tuesday.

XFINITY Center has been a stronghold for the Terps, with them winning their last 16 home games. The nation’s sixth-longest home winning streak is expected to grow, with KenPom.com giving Maryland a 94 percent chance of beating the Braves. The site projects Maryland’s margin of victory at 18 points.

Tipoff for Tuesday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will air on Big Ten Network.

Alcorn State Braves (1-8, 0-0 SWAC)

2022 record: 18-14, 15-3 SWAC

It’s been a rough season so far for Alcorn State. The Braves currently sit at 1-8 without a win against a Division I team. Their schedule has featured four games against teams ranked in KenPom’s top 50, though, and a top-three ranking in the SWAC preseason poll leaves room for optimism. Head coach Landon Bussie’s squad finished with a winning record last year and won a share of the league’s regular-season title, earning a second consecutive NIT berth.

Players to watch

Jeremiah Kendall, senior forward, 6-foot-7, No. 13 — The Braves’ sole preseason all-conference selection, Kendall is off to a blazing hot start this season. He’s averaging 16 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, having scored double-digit points in every contest. Against Arkansas State, he posted a monster 28 points and 14 rebounds.

Byron Joshua, senior guard, 5-foot-10, No. 2 — Joshua is averaging nearly 13 points per game this season and runs the Braves’ offense as its primary ball-handler. He’s played over three quarters of available minutes, according to KenPom, and comfortably leads the team in assists (27).

Dekedran Thorn, senior guard, 6-foot-4, No. 12 — The second half of Alcorn State’s experienced backcourt, Thorn leads the Braves in minutes per game. He’s also scored 9.4 points per game and added a team-high 1.4 steals per contest.

Strength

Experience. Alcorn State’s top six minutes leaders are all upperclassmen, with all but one playing as a senior or graduate student. Although their roster-wide experience may be lacking, the Braves’ usual rotation is seasoned.

Weakness

Defense. Getting stops has been a struggle for Alcorn State. Its Division I opponents have scored at least 80 points in every game, with four teams scoring at least 90. KenPom ranks the Braves’ defense No. 346 in the nation, with their allowed effective field goal percentage ranking as the fourth-worst in Division I.

Three things to watch

1. Remedying offensive struggles. Alcorn State’s subpar defense may allow the Terps to put up notable offensive numbers despite deeply struggling on that end of the court this season. Against a comparably bad UMBC group, Maryland scored 92 points and dropped 103 on Rider one week later.

2. More minutes for Kaiser? Maryland’s recent win over Penn State featured the best performance of freshman Jamie Kaiser Jr.’s young college career, which coincided with graduate forward Donta Scott’s struggles continuing. Kaiser may be in for a larger role moving forward.

3. Free throws. The Terps have done well to get to the free-throw line this season, doing so at the 12th-best rate in the nation, per KenPom. Meanwhile, Alcorn State has allowed free throws at one of the highest rates in Division I.