Maryland men’s basketball has opened up its 2020-21 season in blowout fashion, winning each of its first three games by an average of 22 points. The Terps will look to build on their hot start with a last-minute scheduled game against the Towson Tigers on Tuesday.
After a member of the Monmouth basketball team tested positive on Nov. 25, Maryland was left without an opponent for the week-slate until its Friday matchup with George Mason. A quick fill-in by local rival Towson fixed that within 24 hours of the cancellation.
The Terps have four players averaging double-digit points through their first three games, with guard Eric Ayala leading the way with 16.3 an outing. The junior has started every game alongside junior Aaron Wiggins and senior Darryl Morsell, both of whom are scoring over 12 points per game.
Big men have been a key to Maryland’s success early on as sophomore Donta Scott has shined off Maryland’s bench in two of the three games. The 6’7 forward dropped a career-high 17 points against Mount St. Mary’s on Sunday while fellow big man Jairus Hamilton added 13 of his own.
Hamilton, who transferred from Boston College in the offseason, proved his versatility on Sunday, scoring on the inside at 6’8 and sinking three shots from beyond the arc as well. The junior is averaging eight points and four rebounds through three games, two of which were in the starting lineup.
Towson Tigers (0-3, 0-0 CAA)
2019-20 record: 19-13 (12-6 CAA)
Head coach Pat Skerry is in his 10th season as the leader of the Tigers after serving as an assistant coach in the NCAA since 1998. Skerry has amassed 142 wins at the helm after taking over in 2011 following 15-consecutive losing seasons for the program.
The Tigers have totaled at least 18 wins in six of their last eight seasons under Skerry, including two years with over 20 victories.
Towson opened up its season with a 35-point defeat to No. 4 Virginia, then a loss to San Francisco by nine and finally a defeat to Buffalo by the same margin.
Players to know
Martin Zane, redshirt senior guard, 6’4, 205 lbs., No. 2 - Zane began his college career with the Tigers, then left for New Mexico State for one season in 2019-20 and returned to Towson for his final year of eligibility. The Philadelphia native was named to the All-CAA Second Team in his sophomore season and surpassed 1,000 career points with the Lobos last season. Zane leads the Tigers with 19.3 points and 3.7 assists per game in three starts.
Nicolas Timberlake, redshirt sophomore guard, 6’4, 200 lbs., No. 25 - Timberlake was named the CAA Sixth Man of the Year with 6.1 points and 3.5 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game as a redshirt freshman. Now, as one of three Tigers to start in all three games this season, the Massachusetts native is averaging 11.7 points per contest with a team-high 37.5% mark from deep.
Victor Uyaelunmo, redshirt junior center, 7’0, 220 lbs., No. 34 - Uyaelunmo played his first two collegiate years at the University of Southern California. He made four starts in 43 games for the Trojans but failed to be productive, averaging just 0.8 points as a sophomore. In his first season with the Tigers, the seven-footer has a team-high 8.3 rebounds per game with an added average of five points.
Scrappiness. Though they have allowed a good amount of points to opposing defenses, the Tiger guards have disturbed other teams’ consistencies, averaging 4.3 steals per game. The constant disruption can prove to be useful against a Maryland team that has averaged over 11 turnovers per game this season.
Offense. The Tigers are averaging just 7.7 assists per game and are shooting 29.4% from beyond the arc. The lack of production on the offensive end has put Towson in heavy deficits early-on in games that it has failed to come back from. The team has put up just 62.3 points per game in its first three of the season and is also averaging 12.3 turnovers.
Three things to watch
1. Can the Terps stay hot from deep? With an average of over eight triples per game at a 43.9% clip, Maryland has proven that the deep ball is the nail in the coffin to opposing defenses. Seemingly every player has had their share from three for the Terps, including Hamilton’s three deep-shots against Mount St. Mary’s on Sunday.
All of the team’s big spurts this season have run through the deep ball, so if the Terps can hit from there on Tuesday, the Tigers are in trouble.
2. How will Maryland’s frontcourt perform? Maryland’s big men have out-rebounded opponents by 27 through the team’s first three games, providing a number of second-chance opportunities on offense. New additions Galin Smith and Hamilton have proven their worth as the team’s forwards, along with ever-dangerous Chol Marial standing at 7’2.
3. Will the Terps come out of the gate strong? Maryland didn’t gain its first lead until six minutes remaining in the first half on Sunday, and took until the second half to really break away from Mount St. Mary’s.
In their first two games of the season, Maryland took the early lead and only increased it as time went on. A long run was necessary for any real spark against Mount St. Mary’s, but if the Terps start hot they won’t have to worry about getting things going late.
ESPN BPI: Maryland 82.2% chance to win
KenPom: Maryland 79, Towson 61 (94% chance to win)
Me: Maryland 84, Towson 63