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Maryland men’s basketball vs. No. 3 Purdue preview

Maryland lost to Purdue, 58-55, on Jan. 22.

Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

One of Maryland men’s basketball’s most anticipated matchups of the season will take place this Thursday at 6:30 p.m. when No. 3 Purdue comes to College Park.

It will surely be an electric XFINITY Center atmosphere on Thursday evening. Maryland has yet to lose a conference home game this season, but there won't be a tougher Big Ten opponent that walks into the building than Purdue, which currently sits in first place in the conference at 12-3. Maryland is 8-6 in the Big Ten. Purdue has lost two of its last three; both losses were on the road.

What happened last time

When these teams met on Jan. 22, it was a typical Maryland road affair. The Terps entered West Lafayette as sizable underdogs, as Purdue was atop the Big Ten with just one loss. Maryland looked like the inferior team to start, as another brutal road start plagued the Terps. They entered halftime with a 14-point deficit.

But as Maryland has done all season, it crawled back into the game with a second-half push. Maryland’s defensive intensity and game plan against national player of the year frontrunner Zach Edey was stellar. Although Edey had 24 points and 16 rebounds, Maryland made him work for most of his baskets.

Maryland’s game plan was clear the first time it faced the Boilermakers: make Purdue’s supporting cast beat it. No player on Purdue’s roster other than Edey scored double figures and the team combined to shoot 15% from three. Defensively, Maryland did enough to win. The problem for the Terps was their shooting numbers, which were somehow worse than Purdue’s. Maryland shot 14% from three on 21 attempts.

Despite that, Maryland had the ball down three with 10 seconds remaining. A well-designed play resulted in an open Don Carey corner three, but it sailed over the rim, effectively ending Maryland’s chance of an upset win. Carey finished the game 1-for-6 from three and Maryland fell to Purdue, 58-55.

What’s happened since

Maryland’s near-upset at Purdue led to a four-game win streak that catapulted it into contender status in the Big Ten. Maryland returned home for a crucial three-game home stand and took care of business on its home floor with wins over Wisconsin, Nebraska and Indiana — a stretch that solidified its place in the field of 68 when March arrives.

Maryland also picked up its first conference road win of the season with a drumming of Minnesota, but then proceeded to lose a tight one to Michigan State on the road. Most recently, Maryland defeated Penn State on Saturday to remain unbeaten in conference home games.

Purdue, on the other hand, has lost twice since it played Maryland. The Boilermakers picked up three consecutive wins with victories coming against Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, then suffered a loss to a ranked Indiana team on the road before beating Iowa at home. Purdue then lost to Northwestern Sunday afternoon.

Purdue was the No. 1 team in the country before its most recent loss, but was bumped to No. 3 in this week’s AP poll.

Three things to watch

1. Who wins the 3-point battle? The last time these teams met, it was an abysmal 3-point shooting display. Purdue shot 15% from beyond the arc while Maryland shot 14%. Maryland is a better 3-point shooting team at home than on the road, but it is still the second-worst in the conference, while Purdue is in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. As simple as it sounds, Thursday’s game may very well come down to which team can make more shots.

2. Can Julian Reese replicate his first performance against Purdue? Julian Reese’s best game of the season was against Purdue. Reese finished with 19 points while navigating foul trouble — he committed four fouls in the game. But even more impressive was Reese’s defensive effort against Edey, who is an immovable object. Maryland doubled Edey every chance it got, but Reese did a phenomenal job whenever he was caught in single coverage and fought for position with Edey all game. If Reese can replicate his performance from the first matchup, Maryland will be in a solid position to pull off the upset.

3. Which version of Purdue’s supporting cast will show up? Maryland’s defensive game plan was clear back on Jan. 22, and that was to make Purdue’s supporting cast beat it. It worked relatively well as Purdue’s supporting cast struggled. Given its success, Maryland will likely implement a similar plan for Thursday, hoping the rest of Purdue’s roster provides similar production to round one.