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Maryland basketball vs. Rutgers preview

The Terps are back on the road looking to start Big Ten play 3-1.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland basketball started 2019 with a thrilling win over No. 24 Nebraska, and will look to keep the momentum going as it travels up the East Coast to visit Rutgers on Saturday.

The Terps’ victory Wednesday moved them to 2-1 in Big Ten play and 11-3 overall. The win was Maryland’s first over a ranked opponent in nearly three years, and it came in thrilling fashion. Jalen Smith hit three go-ahead buckets in the final minutes, including the winning floater with 3.8 seconds left. Bruno Fernando dominated with 18 points and 17 rebounds, while Anthony Cowan Jr. tallied 19 points and four assists.

Rutgers has been a doormat since joining the league in 2014, posting a 9-65 record in Big Ten play. The Scarlet Knights turned some heads at the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden this spring, winning two games to reach the quarterfinals. Rutgers started league play this season with narrow losses to Michigan State and Wisconsin, and unlike Maryland, Steve Pikiell’s team has a Power 5 nonconference win (at Miami in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge). But the schedule also includes losses to Seton Hall, St. John’s and Fordham.

Saturday’s game at the 8,000-seat Rutgers Athletic Center tips off at 2 p.m. ET on BTN.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-5, 0-2 Big Ten)

2017-18 record: 15-19, 3-15

Head coach Steve Pikiell came to Rutgers in 2016 after 11 years at Stony Brook, where he won 192 games and led the Seawolves to the NCAA Tournament in his last season. Winning at Rutgers is quite an uphill battle, as the Scarlet Knights going 3-15 in conference play his first two seasons is an improvement over their combined 3-33 Big Ten record under Eddie Jordan. In his playing days, Pikiell played point guard at UConn for Jim Calhoun.

Players to know

Eugene Omoruyi, junior, forward, 6’7/234, No. 5. With Corey Sanders’ playmaking gone, Omoruyi has stepped forward as Rutgers’ top scorer and rebounder. The junior is averaging 16 points and 8.5 boards per game, and he’s been remarkably consistent, scoring at least 15 points in six straight contests. He’s made a huge leap from last year, when he averaged 7.9 points and 5.0 rebounds.

Geo Baker, sophomore, guard, 6’4/180, No. 0. Baker averages 34.1 minutes per game, which is second in the conference behind Penn State superstar Lamar Stevens. In all those minutes, Baker is averaging 13.9 points, five rebounds, three assists and 1.4 steals per game. He was an immediate impact player as a freshman last year, starting 29 games and averaging 10.8 points.

Peter Kiss, RS sophomore, guard, 6’5/200, No. 32. Kiss transferred to Rutgers after spending his freshman year at Quinnipiac, where he averaged 13.3 points and 5.6 boards in 2016-17. After sitting out last season, he’s third on the Scarlet Knights with 9.0 points per contest.


Defense. Rutgers is 38th in the country in defensive efficiency and allows an average of just 63 points per game. The Scarlet Knights have plenty of length on defense, which translates on the perimeter (opponents are making just 33.6 percent of threes) and inside (Rutgers swats 4.8 shots per game). The recipe for an upset will involve making life difficult for Maryland’s offense.


Shooting. Like, all kinds of shooting. This team shoots 41 percent from the field, 31.3 percent from three and 62.6 percent from the line (329th out of 351 Division I teams). Rutgers is 283rd in the country in effective field-goal percentage, and it’s almost equally bad on twos (268th) and threes (272nd).

Three things to watch

1. How does Maryland handle the road environment? The Terps won just two Big Ten road games all of last season, and they’re 0-1 in that department so far this year. They’ll have an obvious talent advantage, but Rutgers isn’t a team to take too lightly right now, especially in its home arena.

2. Do both teams stay big? Rutgers started 6’10 forward Issa Thiam alongside 7’0 center Shaquille Doorson in each of the first nine games, but has brought Thiam off the bench in three straight contests, turning instead to a smaller lineup. If the Scarlet Knights put Omoruyi at power forward, that’ll be an interesting matchup with Jalen Smith.

3. Can Anthony Cowan keep the momentum going? The junior point guard has shot 13-for-37 from the field over his last three games, but made three of his last five shots Wednesday, all from deep. He’s also taken better care of the ball lately, highlighted by his first turnover-free game of the season against Nebraska. Cowan has been a steady scoring presence all season, but Maryland is at its best when he’s efficient.


KenPom: Maryland 68, Rutgers 65

Me: Maryland 71, Rutgers 61