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Maryland men’s basketball vs. Radford preview

The Terps have one last matchup before the new year on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Villanova vs Radford Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After losing steam down the stretch and falling to Seton Hall last weekend, Maryland men’s basketball has one last matchup before the calendar turns to 2019. The Terps invite Radford to the Xfinity Center on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET to close out their nonconference slate.

Maryland (9-3, 1-1 Big Ten) still hasn’t lost back-to-back games this season but is 3-3 in its last six outings, with losses to Virginia and Purdue in addition to its last. The Terps’ defense has been solid over that stretch, but there are still times the offense goes quiet. Anthony Cowan Jr., Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith have continued to lead the way for Maryland, all averaging double figures, but Maryland still needs more production from its bench.

Radford has been a mixed bag so far, picking up wins over Power 5 teams like Texas and Notre Dame, but dropping contests to Ohio and James Madison. The Highlanders snapped a four-game slide its last time out with a win over Georgia Southern, and have four players averaging double-figures.

“If you look at their schedule, the bigger the name, the better they play,” head coach Mark Turgeon told reporters Friday. “So we know we’re going to get their great shot. ... I think our guys realize what’s at stake and just want to play well.”

This is just the second time these two teams have faced off, with Maryland taking the only other matchup in the series in 2011. The second installment will get underway at 6 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

Radford Highlanders (7-5)

2017-18 record: 23-13, 12-6 Big South

Head coach Mike Jones is in his eighth season leading the Highlanders, compiling a 123-121 record in that span. Radford reached the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time under his tenure and the third time in program history, winning the Big South tournament and defeating LIU Brooklyn in the First Four before bowing out against eventual champion-Villanova.

Players to know

Carlik Jones, sophomore, guard, 6’0/170, No. 1. The sophomore has taken the scoring reigns this season, after being the second-highest scorer on last year’s tournament team. Jones is averaging team-highs 15.3 points and 5.2 assists per game, adding 4.8 rebounds as well. His three-point shot has largely abandoned him, as his percentage has cratered to 14.8 percent from 30.5 percent his freshman year.

Ed Polite Jr., senior, forward, 6’5/200, No. 24. The Duval High School product is averaging 11.8 points and a team-high 9.7 rebounds a game, while shooting at a career-high clip from behind the arc. The Lanham native is hitting 37 percent of his three-point attempts, up from 27.5 percent last season on relatively the same amount of attempts (up to 2.3 from 2.2 tries a night).

Travis Fields Jr., junior, guard, 5’9/150, No. 11. The best three-point marksman on the team, Fields chips in 11.5 points, 3.5 assists and 2.7 boards a game. He’s also shooting better from behind the arc than inside it. He’s shooting the deep ball at a team-high .511 clip on 4.1 attempts per game, but shooting just 34.5 percent inside the three-point line.

Caleb Tanner, senior, guard, 6’1/170, No. 10. Tanner rounds out a quartet a Highlanders averaging at least 11 points a game, chipping in 11.3 points a game. The senior guard has gone ballistic from beyond the arc hitting half (50 percent) of his team-high 5.7 attempts per game.


Three-point shooting. The Highlanders have five players that are taking at least two threes a game and making at least 37 percent of them. For reference, Maryland has two (Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala). As a team, Radford has hit 41 percent of its threes, which ranks ninth in the nation.


Size. Radford doesn’t have a single player on its roster over 6’8. Going against a Maryland team that starts two 6’10 bigs and is tied for the sixth-best rebounding margin in the nation, that could be a problem. If Maryland’s bigs can keep up on the defensive end, they could carve out some space in the paint on the offensive end.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland bully the Highlanders inside? As previously noted, Maryland has the size advantage, and Fernando has been hard to stop recently. He and Smith helped stabilize and put the Terps in front during the first half against Seton Hall, with Fernando racking up his fourth double-double of the season in the process. However, there’s also been times this season where the Terps’ big lineup has been ineffective against smaller teams. Smith and Fernando both got in foul trouble against a Loyola-Chicago team that was similarly sized.

2. Who steps up late in the game? Maryland’s about two eight-minute stretches from being 11-1, and Turgeon acknowledged as much Friday. The burden has fallen on Cowan to make something out of nothing more often than not in close games this season. If the Terps are going to survive league play, he’ll need help down the stretch.

“More guys have to assert themselves,” Turgeon said. “Late in the game it just can’t be Anthony [Cowan]. It’s got to be Bruno [Fernando], it’s got to be [Smith], it’s got to be Eric [Ayala], who has stepped up a lot and done a lot for us.”

3. How do the Terps close nonconference play? Maryland’s gone 2-2 in nonconference play against teams that made the tournament last season, and this is an opportunity to end the slate above .500. More importantly, this is the last chance to build momentum before 18 more league games. With a conference loss already on the resume, getting to 10 wins before the New Year would be a solid start for the young team.


KenPom: Maryland 74, Radford 63

Me: Maryland 70, Radford 65