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No. 17 Maryland men’s basketball vs Purdue preview

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The Terps return home in an attempt to get a much-needed win.

Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

After losing its second consecutive conference loss, No. 17 Maryland men’s basketball returns to Xfinity Center — a location it holds a 10-0 record at this season — to host the Purdue Boilermakers Saturday.

The Terps lost in heartbreaking fashion Tuesday when a turnover in the final seconds allowed Wisconsin’s Brad Davison to hit a game-winning three-pointer, handing the team its fourth loss of the season.

Last year, Maryland and Purdue split the season series, with each team winning on its home court. The game in College Park last year also provided one of the most memorable moments of the season when guard Eric Ayala dropped Purdue star Carsen Edwards, who is now playing at the next level.

Tipoff in College Park is scheduled for 2 p.m., and the game can be watched on ESPN2.

Purdue Boilermakers (10-7, 3-3 Big Ten)

2018-19 record: 26-10 (16-4 Big Ten)

Head coach Matt Painter is in his 15th season with the Boilermakers and has had much success with the program. After guiding Purdue to back-to-back Sweet Sixteen appearances in 2017 and 2018, Painter finally broke through last season and led his team to its first Elite Eight appearance since 2000. This past summer, Painter signed an extension that keeps him with the program through the 2023-24 season, so he’ll be on the sidelines coaching against the Terps for years to come.

Players to know

Trevion Williams, sophomore forward, 6’9, 270 lbs, No. 50. After a freshman campaign that included an average of 5.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest, Williams has shown great improvement in his second year as a Boilermaker. The Chicago native is averaging 11.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest — both of which are team-highs.

Williams had the best game of his career against then-No. 19 Michigan on Jan. 9, grabbing 20 boards to go along with 36 points. The sophomore earns the majority of his points on the block but also has the ability to hit the stepback jumpshot over defenders or finish through contact. He’s shooting an impressive 58.5 percent from the field so far in 2019-20.

Matt Haarms, junior center, 7’3, 250 lbs, No. 32. In what seems to be an everlasting career as a Boilermaker, Haarms makes his return to College Park.

The junior from The Netherlands has been a stable part of Painter’s lineups over the past few years, and he continues to get better. Haarms puts up 10.4 points per game and grabs an average of 5.5 boards. Haarms also averages 2.2 blocks per game, which ranks third in the Big Ten.

“I know both of them can step out and shoot a little bit,” Jalen Smith said Friday about Williams and Haarms. “I’ve got to be be prepared for that. And then making sure that I just limit them to as many touches in the post.”

Eric Hunter Jr., sophomore guard, 6’4, 175 lbs, No. 2. Hunter — like Williams — has made a large jump from his freshman to sophomore year. Last season, the Indianapolis native averaged 2.2 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists in only 12.6 minutes per game. Through 17 games, Williams, who plays a team-high 32.2 minutes per game, is the team’s second-leading scorer and its leading playmaker, averaging 10.9 points and 2.76 assists per contest.

Sasha Stefanovic, sophomore guard, 6’4, 195 lbs, No. 55. Stefanovic has been a mainstay in the Boilermakers’ starting lineup since Dec. 4 and provides them with a threat from deep. The sophomore is shooting 42.6 percent from beyond the arc, which is good for the third spot in the conference, and averaging 9.8 points per game.

Strength

Scoring defense. Purdue does a great job at limiting its opponents on the offensive end. For example, the Boilermakers are coming off their biggest win of the season — a 71-42 victory over the then-No. 8 Michigan State. (But more on that a bit later.)

Purdue allows its opponents to score 59.6 points per game, which is second to only Rutgers in the Big Ten, and currently ranks sixth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing opponents to score 86 points per 100 possessions, according to KenPom.

Weakness

Free throws. Purdue does not get to the line often — 272 times to be exact, which is the third least in the Big Ten — but when it does, the team cannot execute.

The Boilermakers only make 65 percent of their free throws — third worst in the conference — with Williams being one of their worst shooters from the charity stripe. Williams has made the journey to the free throw line more than any other Boilermaker this season, but only makes 45 percent of his shots from there, which could come in handy for the Terps if they are required to foul in a close game.

Three things to watch

1. What kind of momentum will the Boilermakers have after their blowout win over Michigan State? As previously mentioned, Purdue pulled out an upset win over then-No. 8 Michigan State. The Boilermakers relied on their stout defense and held the Tom Izzo-led team to 42 points — the Spartans’ fewest since 2012.

Purdue especially limited Michigan State stand out Cassius Winston, who was chosen as the Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year. Winston finished with 10 points and five assists while also contributing nine turnovers.

Though the Big Ten is as deep as ever, the blowout win should serve as a confidence boost for Purdue, which was riding a two-game losing streak prior to the matchup.

2. Can Aaron Wiggins build on his showing against Wisconsin? Head coach Mark Turgeon decided to switch up his starting rotation Tuesday against Wisconsin in order to take pressure off of sophomore guard Aaron Wiggins, who had previously started every game to date.

Wiggins was the first player off the bench and responded very well, scoring 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field and 3-of-6 from deep. The Greensboro, North Carolina, native had been struggling before his performance against the Badgers, scoring a total of seven points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field and 0-of-3 from beyond the arc against Ohio State and Iowa.

“Coming off the bench or starting, I just want to make the best play for my team,” Wiggins said Friday. “I’d been getting a lot of shots up before [Wisconsin] so I was comfortable with my shot ready to go.”

But now that the Terps are back in College Park, the familiar territory could be the building block that Wiggins needs to breakout on the back end of the season. On Friday, Turgeon said he plans to have Wiggins come off the bench against the Boilermakers.

3. Will the Terps end their losing skid with a matchup at home? Maryland has had its worst showing on the road, a 67-49 loss to Iowa Jan. 10, and its best showing on the road, a 56-54 loss to Wisconsin Jan. 14 — both of which has resulted in losses.

For the second time this season, the Terps have gone on a two-game losing streak and returned to College Park to rely on their undefeated home record to get back on track.

“We’ve got to be resilient — we’ve got an opportunity at home,” Turgeon said Friday. “That was the whole thing with the guys yesterday when we got together Thursday, like ‘All right, feeling sorry for yourself, don’t come to practice, be ready to fight. Let’s go.’ ... We don’t feel sorry for ourselves, it’s not a lingering effect. We think we’re starting to play a lot better basketball.”

With such a deep conference, this game is very important for Maryland to build its confidence before going back on the road to Evanston, Illinois on Jan. 21 to face Northwestern and Bloomington, Indiana, on Jan. 26 to play Indiana.

Predictions

Vegas: Maryland -6, O/U 124.5 (as of Saturday morning)

ESPN BPI: Maryland has a 67.1 percent chance to win.

KenPom: Maryland 62, Purdue 58 (Maryland has a 67% chance to win.)

Me: Maryland 63, Purdue 60