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No. 13 Maryland men’s basketball vs Bryant preview

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The Terps host the Bulldogs for their final game of 2019.

Darryl Morsell, Illinois, Maryland basketball Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

After another long break in between games, No. 13 Maryland men’s basketball is back and will host a Northeast Conference foe in Bryant on Sunday.

While the Terps have suffered two straight losses at the hands of Penn State and Seton Hall, the Bulldogs are riding a four-game winning streak into College Park and are on the verge of their longest winning streak since the 2012-13 season.

“Our guys are ready,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “I don’t know if we’re going to play great — we’ve had two games in 18 days. But our guys respect Bryant. ... I think our energy level is going to be really good. I think our attitude is going to be great.”

These two programs have met once before, which occurred in College Park during the 2008-09 season. Maryland pulled out a 72-51 victory behind Greivis Vasquez’s 19 points.

Tipoff is scheduled for noon and can be watched on BTN.

Bryant Bulldogs (8-4)

2018-19 record: 10-20 (7-11 Northeast Conference)

Head coach Jared Grasso is in his second year with the team after being hired in April 2018. During his first season at the helm, Grasso led the Bulldogs to 10 wins — making them the only team in the nation to triple their win total from the season before. Prior to coming to Bryant, Grasso helped Iona to a record of 182-92, five NCAA Tournament berths and three MAAC regular season championships.

Players to know

Adam Grant, senior guard, 6’1, 180 lbs, No. 11 The Bulldogs aren’t a team that has a plethora of double-digit scorers that are going to spread out the point distribution. In fact, they only have two players that average double digits — one being Grant. The Franklin, Virginia, native is the leading scorer for Bryant, averaging 18.5 points on 40 percent shooting from the field and 34.5 percent from deep. The team’s second leading scorer is freshman guard Charles Pride, who averages 11.4 points per game.

Grant is currently the second-leading scorer in the Northeast Conference but is coming off of a season-low six points against Dartmouth on Dec. 21.

Ikenna Ndugba, redshirt junior guard, 6’0, 188 lbs, No. 0 Through 12 games this season, Grasso does not have a consistent starting five. And while Grant has started every game for Bryant, Ndugba is the only other Bulldog to have started 10 or more games. Ndugba, who redshirted last season after undergoing shoulder surgery, is currently averaging 8.5 points per game and is second on the team in assists per game (3.0). He is an experienced player — appearing in 63 games during his first two years in the program — that Grasso has relied on heavily through nonconference play.

Hall Elisias, redshirt junior forward, 6’7, 230 lbs, No. 34 Elisias has had a very impressive December, notching 23 blocks in the past four games. (Fans may not like the sound of that considering Seton Hall had more blocks (15) than Maryland had made field goals (14) in the Terps’ last game.) Elisias currently averages 3.08 blocks per game, which ranks 11th nationally.

Strength

Defense. In seven of their eight victories, including the last four games, the Bulldogs have held their opponents to under 70 points. Bryant, which leads its conference with a 100.3 defensive efficiency rating, has allowed an average of 67 points through 12 games, which ranks third in the conference and 142nd nationally.

The Bulldogs rank first in blocked shots per game (4.83) and second in steals per game (8.42) within the NEC. While Elisias leads the team in blocked shots, Ndugba contributes 1.5 steals per game.

Weakness

Free throw shooting. Though Bryant gets about 16.4 free throw attempts per game, the team is only able to hit about 65 percent of those shots. The team’s average gives it the No. 9 ranking in the 11-team conference. Grant, who averages about four free throws per game, shoots about 74 percent from the charity stripe.

Three things to watch

1. How will the Mitchell twins’ absence impact the rotation? On Dec. 27, Maryland announced that Makhi and Makhel Mitchell decided to leave the program and enter the transfer portal, leaving behind concerns of the team’s front court depth. While Makhi averaged 9.33 minutes and had five starts, Makhel saw 5.67 minutes per contest but never started for Turgeon.

Now that the twins from Washington D.C. are headed elsewhere, other Terps will be required to step up and fill the rebounding and physicality void.

“I feel like we will have to be a lot more scrappier ... find ways to get loose balls, find ways to get rebounds” guard Darryl Morsell said. “It’s something that I embrace. And as a team, we’re certainly going to have to embrace it in order to be successful.”

Morsell could be asked to play more of the stretch four, while Jalen Smith continues to develop at the five position for Maryland. Ricky Lindo Jr. will also see an increase in minutes after struggling to find a role and time on the floor earlier this season. Joshua Tomaic can also be expected to be in the rotation, according to Turgeon.

2. Chol Marial will be making his debut tomorrow. Another player that will be asked to fill the void of the Mitchell twins is Marial, who stands at a towering 7’2.

“Chol is going to play tomorrow. How much? We will see,” Turgeon said. “Chol’s been practicing for about two weeks. He’s a shadow of himself, but a shadow that is pretty good with his length.

“He’ll be a great rim protector when he gets healthy. But I’d say Chol is probably 70 percent of himself, what he was before he’s been hurt the last couple years.”

Marial was available for the first time this season against Seton Hall on Dec. 19 and did not see action, but he will be part of the rotation against Bryant.

“He’s unique in terms of how mobile and put together he is to be that big,” guard Eric Ayala said. “Now he’s getting his strength back in his legs and he’s moving at a different pace now. It’s impressive to see somebody that big be able to do the things he can do.”

3. Can the Terps end 2019 on a positive note? Maryland’s last two outings were far from its best — both resulting in ugly losses. With Bryant as their last nonconference opponent and their last game of 2019, the Terps will have the opportunity to gain some momentum before heading into Big Ten play.

“I think we all [are] just excited to be back,” Ayala said. “We can’t take [Bryant] lightly and relax. I think this is as big of a game for us as any of them that we’ve already played.”

On the other side of the new year, Maryland will host Indiana on Jan. 4 and No. 2 Ohio State three days later.

Predictions

Vegas: N/A (As of Saturday afternoon)

ESPN BPI: Maryland 95.7 percent chance to win

KenPom: Maryland 82, Bryant 59 (Maryland 98 percent chance to win)

Me: Maryland 75, Bryant 60