Maryland men’s basketball returns to play after an 11-day break for finals. Now, the Terps have one last matchup before Christmas, and a win won’t be gift wrapped for them against Seton Hall on Saturday night.
Maryland (9-2, 1-1 Big Ten) got a nice break after beating Loyola (Md.) in Xfinity Center on Dec. 11. Anthony Cowan Jr. paced the Terps with 23 points, and six players scored in double-figures despite an injury to a starter. Jalen Smith earned his second Big Ten Freshman of the Week nod after finishing with a career-high 20 points and adding eight rebounds and two blocks in the win.
For Seton Hall, the Terps represent the final opponent before the Pirates enter Big East play. Head coach Kevin Willard’s squad enters the matchup with wins over Rutgers, Miami and then-No. 9 Kentucky; a win over this Maryland team could further bolster Seton Hall’s resume come March. Maryland wasn’t selected to participate in the Gavitt Games this season, but the two coaches were still able to schedule an interconference home-and-home.
“Well, we needed a game, they needed a game, we both thought we weren’t going to be that good,” head coach Mark Turgeon told reporters Friday. “They had lost a lot of starters, we lost some people. Both young teams, we thought it was going to be a good game for us.”
These two programs have played just three times prior, with the Terps holding a 2-1 lead in the series. Lefty Driesell roamed the Maryland sidelines for the last win in the series, a 104-69 blowout in Cole Field House. This one will get underway in the Xfinity Center Saturday at 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1.
Seton Hall Pirates (8-3)
2017-18 record: 22-12, 10-8 Big East
Head coach Kevin Willard is in his ninth season leading the Pirates, and has steered Seton Hall to three straight tournament appearances. Last season, the program picked up its first win in the tournament since 2004, taking down NC State in the opening round before falling to Kansas.
Players to know
Myles Powell, junior, guard, 6’2/205, No. 13. The junior has taken a massive leap after the graduation of Angel Delgado, shouldering the scoring load for the Pirates with 22.7 points per game. That mark is second-best in the Big East on 38.1 percent shooting beyond the arc, and Powell has added 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
“For where [Powell] has come from his junior year of high school to where he is now is amazing,” Turgeon said. “This kid’s special because, one, he can shoot deep coming off screens, then he can bounce you and pull up and shoot threes. Then you got to guard that and he can drive by you. ... He’s very efficient and a willing passer.”
Sandro Mamukelashvili, sophomore, center, 6’10/230, No. 23. The Tbilisi, Georgia, native has responded positively to increased playing time, bumping his production up from 2.6 points and 1.9 rebounds per game and eight made threes on 27 attempts (.296) in 9.6 minutes to 10.3 points and a team-high eight rebounds per game and going 10-of-25 (.400) from deep so far in 27.9 minutes a night.
Michael Nzei, redshirt senior, forward, 6’8/205, No. 1. The four-time All-Academic Big East selection has stepped up as Seton-Hall’s third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder. Nzei is averaging 10.2 points and 5.1 boards per game on a hyper-efficient .691 clip from the field, which ranks third in the conference.
Limiting turnovers. The Pirates have kept the mistakes down, so far, this season, with a top-15 turnover rate. The team turns the ball over on just 15.4 percent of possessions, per Kenpom, and its 11 turnovers per game are the 22nd-best mark in the nation. The Pirates don’t make a lot of unforced errors, and teams have had little success taking the ball as well, with just 6.4 percent of Seton Hall’s possessions ending in a steal.
Offensive rebounding. While Seton Hall has benefited from not cutting its own possessions short, the Pirates have been less effective at extending possessions via the offensive glass. In this way, they are almost anti-Maryland. Willard’s squad rebounds 26 percent of its offensive misses, which ranks No. 259 in the country. For comparison, Maryland’s 38.8 percent offensive rebound rate ranks No. 6 in the nation.
Three things to watch
1. How does Maryland respond to the lengthy break? This was a stretch that Turgeon previously identified as crucial for development, with six practices in 10 days. Turgeon said the team focused mostly on the offensive end, and freshman guard Eric Ayala said he and Cowan have been in-sync the last few practices. Whether that translates is yet to be seen.
“I think we’ve implemented some things that are going to help us,” Turgeon said. “I think the guys are very confident with it and I think we’ve really practiced well, so we’ll see. It’s been a long time between games, it will be interesting to see how we start tomorrow.”
2. Does Maryland keep the turnovers down? Maryland’s turnover problem had risen to the problem of “huge concern” before a loss at Purdue. After turning the ball over 17 times in that loss and 15 times against Loyola-Chicago (with a plus-four turnover margin), the Terps had just eight giveaways the last time out. While turnovers are still a point of emphasis, Turgeon believes the problem can be fixed with comfort over time.
“We’re talking about turnovers less because we were talking about it too much,” Turgeon said. “It’s fixable. We got good players, but they’re young. It’s not like they’re going to turn 22 tomorrow, they’re still going to be 18, 19-year old kids. But we have talent, we have good players, we’re getting a better feel. ... For us to take the next step, we have to continue to rebound great and take care of the basketball.”
3. How close is Darryl Morsell to 100 percent? Morsell missed the Loyola (Md.) matchup after spraining his ankle in warmups against Loyola-Chicago. Turgeon said he’s participated in the last three practices and will play on Saturday. He’ll likely be tasked with guarding Powell often, a job Turgeon feels he’ll be prepared for.
“Darryl is doing pretty well,” Turgeon said. “He looks good. He got a little bit better every day and he’s ready to go. He won’t be 100 percent but he’s ready to help us. ... I’m anxious to see what kind of shape Darryl’s in.”
KenPom: Maryland 76, Seton Hall 68
Me: Maryland 73, Seton Hall 69