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Maryland men’s basketball at Minnesota preview

The Terps hit the road looking to bounce back after a loss.

Cal Tobias/Testudo Times

Maryland men’s basketball (9-5, 1-2 Big Ten) will be back on the road Sunday, looking to bring its conference record back to .500 after a recent loss to No. 1 Purdue. Firmly outside the NCAA Tournament picture, the Terps are looking to spark a mid-season renaissance in the same building they earned their only conference road win last season. Maryland is 16-2 all-time against Minnesota, with a 7-1 record at historic Williams Arena.

Sunday’s game will tip off at 5:30 p.m. ET and air on Big Ten Network.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (11-3, 2-1 Big Ten)

2022-23 record: 9-22, 2-17 Big Ten

It’s Minnesota’s second season under head coach Ben Johnson, and after a dismal first campaign, Johnson’s group has already bettered its win total this season. However, the Golden Gophers’ strong record may be a mirage — their strength of schedule is No. 347 in the nation, according to KenPom.com, with only one win coming against a team ranked in the site’s top 50 (No. 49 Nebraska). That being said, they have set themselves up in a solid position to make a leap. Minnesota will have ample opportunities throughout Big Ten play to prove its postseason worth.

Players to know

Dawson Garcia, junior forward, 6-foot-11, No. 3 — In his second year with the program, Garcia is by far Minnesota’s most productive player, averaging 17.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. He’s found a home in the Twin Cities after transferring twice, first from Marquette and then from North Carolina, and looks comfortable as the Golden Gophers’ top option.

Joshua Ola-Joseph, sophomore forward, 6-foot-7, No. 1 — Ola-Jospeh is one of two Minnesota players to have played in and started every game this season, and he’s found success doing so, averaging 10.8 points per game.

Pharrel Payne, sophomore forward, 6-foot-9, No. 21 — In terms of rebounding, Payne is second only to Garcia among Golden Gophers. He’s snatching 5.4 boards per contest, which pairs nicely with his average of 9.8 points per game.

Strength

Shooting. The Golden Gophers have had little trouble putting the ball in the hoop. Their effective field goal percentage, which weighs the value of threes and twos differently, is the 17th-best in the country. Minnesota has been particularly effective from inside the arc, with a top-15 2-point field goal percentage.

Weakness

Strength of schedule. Minnesota is as untested as any team Maryland will play this season. The Golden Gophers played the weakest nonconference schedule in the nation, and despite being 2-1 in Big Ten games, remains virtually untested heading into Sunday’s game.

Three things to watch

1. Getting to the line. Of all Division I teams, Maryland has scored the eighth-highest percentage of its points on free throws. Meanwhile, Minnesota has struggled to keep opponents off the line. Given their shooting struggles, the Terps may need to draw fouls to score.

2. Can Reese bounce back? In Maryland’s last game against Purdue, forward Julian Reese went scoreless, marking the first time in his career he played at least 15 minutes in a game and didn’t score. If his struggles continue, Maryland will face a massive challenge to win.

3. Winning on the road. Maryland has been abysmal on the road under Kevin Willard and has just one win away from College Park this season. After losing at home to Purdue, the Terps will need to begin picking up road wins should they aim to match their Big Ten record from a season ago.