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No. 7 Maryland men’s basketball vs Rhode Island preview

The Terps look to earn their second victory of the season on national television.

Maryland men’s basketball Aaron Wiggins vs Holy Cross Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

With a 95-71 victory over Holy Cross on Tuesday, the Maryland men’s basketball season is officially underway.

The No. 7 Terps took care of business against the Crusaders, thanks in part to four players — Jalen Smith, Darryl Morsell, Anthony Cowan Jr. and Eric Ayala — scoring in double figures.

While everyone received the first look at Mark Turgeon’s team Tuesday, a game against a Patriot League — arguably the worst conference in Division I — opponent doesn’t give too much insight into the group’s potential. Rhode Island isn’t a powerhouse, but the Atlantic-10 member should provide a competitive matchup against Maryland.

“They’re a good team,” freshman Donta Scott said. “So we’re looking forward to this game, ready for the competition.”

Saturday night’s game is scheduled to tip off at 9 p.m. ET, and will be broadcasted on Fox Sports 1.

Rhode Island Rams

2018-19 record: 18-15 (9-9 Atlantic-10)

Head coach David Cox, who grew up in the DMV and was a big Terps fan as a kid, is in his second year in charge of the program in South Kingstown. After serving as an assistant under Dan Hurley for four seasons, Cox was handed the keys to the castle when the former left URI to take the open job at UConn. It was an up-and-down season for the Rams, who missed the NCAA Tournament after making it the previous two years.

Players to know

Jeff Dowtin, senior guard, 6’3, 170 lbs, No. 11. Dowtin grew up in Maryland, going to St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C. He was in the same class as Anthony Cowan Jr., and the two won a WCAA title together in the 2015-16 season, also playing on the same AAU team together.

Last year as a junior, Dowtin averaged 15.3 points per game (eighth in the Atlantic-10) on 47.5 percent shooting, while adding 3.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists. Against Long Island University on Tuesday, he scored 13 points while playing 36 minutes.

Cyril Langevine, senior forward, 6’8, 230 lbs, No. 10. Langevine earned First-Team All-Conference and All-Defense honors in the Preseason Atlantic-10 poll, and for good reason. As a junior, Langevine averaged 14.7 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, the latter of which led the conference and ranked tied for 19th in the nation. He also averaged 1.4 blocks per contest, which is something to look out for on Saturday. On Tuesday, Langevine posted a monster double-double, racking up 16 points and 15 rebounds.

Fatts Russell, junior guard, 5’10, 165 lbs, No. 1. Russell is the smallest player on the court nearly all the time, but he makes up for it with his playmaking and scoring ability. In 2018-19, Russell was third on the team with his 14.2 points per game, and he tied for the team-lead with 3.7 assists and led with 1.8 steals. Russell led the way against the Sharks earlier in the week, scoring 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting.

Strength

Three-point defense. It’s a funny coincidence given where Rhode Island struggled most (more on that later), but the Rams were pretty adept at limiting their opponents’ three-point success. The opposition hit just 32.3 percent of its shots from beyond the arc in 2018-19, giving Rhode Island the fourth-best mark in the A-10. That figure also ranked in the top-75 in the nation. On Tuesday, LIU made just 19 of its 44 attempts (29.5 percent) from long distance.

Weakness

Three-points shooting. There were times last season when the Rams couldn’t buy a bucket from long range. As a team, Rhode Island made just 28 percent of its three-point attempts, which tied for last in the entire country. Russell was the biggest culprit, as he took an average of 5.6 threes a game while converting just 22.3 percent.

Three things to watch

1. Can the Terps find success from beyond the arc? While Maryland had a relatively easy victory over Holy Cross on Tuesday, its three-point shooting was an abomination. Thanks to a combined 1-of-12 performance from sharpshooters Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins, the Terps made just 18.5 percent of their threes. The lack of success didn’t bury them against Holy Cross, but they’ll likely need to be better against the Rams.

“As the season goes on, we’ll make more shots. Five for 27, I don’t think that’ll happen too often,” Ayala said. “I think we’re prepared for tomorrow.”

2. Will Cyril Langevine be neutralized? Langevine is 6’8, and nobody on Rhode Island is taller. In a mid-major conference like the Atlantic-10, he has a distinct size advantage on the majority of his foes in league play. But against Maryland, four players will have the upper hand on Langevine, including the towering trio of Jalen Smith and the Mitchell Twins. Langevine is used to dominating on the boards, but he could be kept in check against the Terps.

3. When will Maryland have a set starting lineup? Starting a basketball game is mostly an arbitrary distinction — who finishes a game on the court is obviously much more important. Against Holy Cross, Morsell came off the bench but logged a starter’s workload, finishing with 23 minutes on the night. Ricky Lindo Jr. drew the nod on opening night, but after Morsell’s 15-point, five-rebound, four-assist and three-steal outing, he is getting the start — though Turgeon said is for matchup reasons.

“I think I have seven or eight different guys that can start,” Turgeon said. “Darryl’s starting tomorrow, we’ll make an adjustment. ... But we’ll probably have two different starters in the lineup tomorrow night in the first half. Second half, I might start a whole different team.”

Predictions

Vegas: -11, O/U 144.5

ESPN BPI: Maryland 78.3% chance to win

KenPom: Maryland 79, Rhode Island 67 (Maryland 85% chance to win)

Me: Maryland 75, Rhode Island 68