Maryland men’s basketball hits the road for the back half of its early-season conference slate, taking on Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana, on Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET.
The Terps (7-1, 1-0 Big Ten) enter the contest as the No. 23 team in the country, moving up a spot in the rankings despite dropping their first game of the season to No. 4 Virginia last week. Maryland rebounded with a 66-59 win over Penn State at home, with Anthony Cowan Jr. scoring 15 points in each game and Bruno Fernando posting two double-doubles. Fernando is now averaging a double-double on the season, with 15.4 points and 10 rebounds a game.
Maryland goes to face a Purdue team that dropped from the rankings this past week after being ranked No. 18 the week prior. The Boilermakers went 0-2, losing to Florida State by one in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge before a blowout at the hands of No. 7 Michigan. Head coach Matt Painter has a potential Player of the Year in point guard Carsen Edwards, but the team has lost three of its last four outings.
It will be the first time the Terps leave the state of Maryland this season, as its only other road contest was played against Navy in Annapolis. The game will air Thursday on BTN, as Maryland looks to stay perfect in its December Big Ten games.
Purdue Boilermakers (5-3, 0-1 B1G)
2017-18 record: 30-7, 15-3
Head coach Matt Painter is in his 14th season coaching at his alma mater after getting his head coaching start by guiding Southern Illinois to the NCAA Tournament in 2003-04. His Boilermakers have made the Tournament the last four seasons and missed the postseason just three times in his tenure. Purdue has made it to the Sweet 16 the past two tournaments.
Players to know
Carsen Edwards, junior, guard, 6’1/190, No. 3. Averaging 24.4 points, three rebounds, four assists and a steal per game this season, the junior is currently sixth in KenPom’s National Player of the Year race. A whopping 37.7 percent of Purdue’s possessions end in points or assists for him, and he takes 39.7 percent of the team’s shots, per KenPom, and is fifth in the nation in both categories. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s shooting 38.2 percent from deep with high volume.
Ryan Cline, senior, guard, 6’5/190, No. 14. The senior has been Edwards’ running mate in the backcourt this season, and is producing results in his career-high 33.4 minutes per game. He’s Purdue’s second-leading scorer, averaging 15.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He’s also the Boilermakers’ top marksman, hitting 45.6 percent of three-point attempts and shooting 48.4 percent from the field.
Evan Boudreaux, junior, forward, 6’8/220, No. 12. Despite not starting a single game this season, Boudreaux is Purdue’s third-leading scorer and top rebounder. He’s averaging 10.3 points and 5.9 boards a night, starring as sixth man in an average of 18.8 minutes. The junior is also another shooter off the bench for Painter, putting up 2.3 attempts per night and hitting at a 33.3 percent clip.
Three-point shooting. This iteration of Painter’s squad has plenty of shooters on board. Though eight games, the Boilermakers have hit 93 threes on 241 attempts (38.6 percent), which rank No. 6 and No. 17 in the country, respectively. Edwards and Cline are each averaging over 3.6 made threes per game on 9.5 and 8.5 attempts, respectively. This team is not afraid to launch it from deep, and the Terps will have to make sure to run shooters off their marks.
Perimeter defense. Somewhat ironically, given their three-point prowess, the Boilermakers have struggled to defend the perimeter on the other side of the ball. Purdue ranks 298th (of 353 Division I programs) in three-pointers allowed, and opponents are hitting 36.4 percent of attempts (274th). The Terps haven’t been consistent from behind the line, hitting just 31.9 percent of attempts from distance (235th), but Cowan, Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala have all shown the ability to hit those shots. Jalen Smith also nailed his second three of the season against Penn State, and had a reputation as a stretch big in high school.
Three things to know
1. How do the freshmen respond to the environment? This will be the first time Maryland’s freshmen leave the state this season, and it’s fair to wonder how they’ll respond to the hostile environment. Head coach Mark Turgeon said they were nervous before their first sellout against Virginia, though they eventually found their footing. The Terps play five freshmen in their top-eight, and it may take a second for them to get used to the crowd.
“[Turgeon] constantly stresses that it’s hard to win games on the road, it’s hard to win in college basketball, in the Big Ten in general,” Wiggins told reporters Tuesday. “[The crowd’s energy] is just something we have to look at and find a way to twist it, flip it, just try to silence the joint and keep it all down. Go into the locker room and focus and just try to complete our gameplan.”
2. How effective is Turgeon’s big lineup against Purdue’s shooters? Maryland has been fairly effective at shutting down three-point shooters this season, holding teams to just 30.3 percent from deep. However, which lineup does the trick, will be something to keep an eye on. Smith did an excellent job at defending Lamar Stevens against Penn State, and his effectiveness defending the perimeter will help determine how much he and Fernando share the court Thursday.
“I really think playing Lamar Stevens helped me a lot because he was like a perimeter post player,” Smith said Tuesday. “So just knowing I have to get around screens, it’s going to be a challenge. But whatever coach needs me to do, I’ll do it.”
3. Does Maryland keep the turnovers down? In a way, this will also be linked with how the team responds to the environment, but the Terps have been turnover-prone of late. In the last four games, Maryland has turned the ball over 18, 19, 13 and 17 times. The Terps won three of those games, but it’s an area that has reached a serious level of concern for Turgeon, as 20.2 percent of the Terps’ possessions have ended in turnovers.
“It’s a huge concern,” Turgeon said. “First few games, not a lot of them have been on the road, we haven’t been in a tough environment. We can’t have 17 or 18 turnovers and expect to win. We continue to talk about it, we continue to work on it—we had a really good practice [Monday]. Hopefully, I’ll get everybody on the same page and thinking a little bit clearer.”
KenPom: Purdue, 78, Maryland 71
Me: Maryland 74, Purdue 68
(See? I don’t mind making predictions when I remember.)