After an eight day break away from the hardwood, Maryland men’s basketball returns to action on Tuesday night to take on the La Salle Explorers at Xfinity Center.
The Terps are currently on a two game skid after a 4-0 start to the season, dropping consecutive games to Clemson and No. 11 Rutgers by an average margin of 15 points. Maryland’s scoring efficiency suffering a precipitous decline in each of those contests has played a significant role, shooting a combined 41-for-111 (36 percent) from the field in its first two games against Power Five opponents.
“I thought we got better between Clemson and Rutgers, we just weren’t tough enough to win that game,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. “I think we’ve gotten better, we’ll see tomorrow night; how we play and how guys react and all that stuff.”
The lone bright spot for Maryland as of late has been the play of sophomore forward Donta Scott. Beginning the season as a fringe starter for the Terps, Scott has secured his position in the starting five after leading the team in scoring in each of the last two games. He’s also become the team’s most reliable three-point shooter, shooting a blistering 61.1 percent from beyond the arc this season.
Tuesday’s contest marks the first meeting between these two programs in almost 30 years, with the Terps coming out victorious in that December 1994 contest, 96-80. Maryland and La Salle have only played one another three times in total, with Maryland leading that all-time series 3-0.
The game is set to tip-off at 7 p.m. and will be televised on Big Ten Network.
La Salle Explorers (3-4, 0-1 A10)
2018-19 record: 15-15 (6-12 A10)
Head coach Ashley Howard’s rebuilding effort with the Explorers has hit a bit of snag in his second year with the program after making significant stripes last season. A former Jay Wright assistant at Villanova, Howard’s squad began this season with three straight road losses to St. John’s, Saint Peter’s and Army before winning three of their next four. Still, Howard has had to weather the losses of three starters from a season ago, with that lack of continuity showing early this year for La Salle.
Players to Know
1. David Beatty, senior guard, 6-foot-2, 200 lbs. No. 1 — Given the losses endured this offseason, Beatty has had to shoulder a far more significant offensive load this season. Beatty has paced the team in scoring for the second year in a row, with his 10.4 points per game nearly matching his per game average from a season ago. Beatty’s been playing particularly well as of late, averaging 15 points per game in the team’s last three games.
2. Jhamir Brickus, freshman guard, 5-foot-11, 205 lbs. No. 13 — After capping his senior season as his high school’s all-time leading scorer, Brickus has made an immediate impact in his first seven games as an Explorer. Brickus’ ability to score efficiently has allowed for him to play his way into the starting lineup, with his 8.7 points per game being second on the team only to Beatty. He’s also proved to be an asset on the defensive end of the floor as well, leading the team in total steals this season with 12.
3. Jack Clark, redshirt sophomore guard, 6-foot-8, 200 lbs. No. 5 — Having spent all of last season on the bench due to injury, Clark has been a hot-and-cold scorer for La Salle in his return to the floor. Currently third on the team in scoring at 8.6 points per game, Clark’s longer frame has made him one of the team’s top rebounders as well, currently leading the Explorers with 6.9 per game.
Protecting the rim. La Salle has been one of the better teams in the country so far this season in regard to sending back shots at the rim, with their trio of rim-protecting bigs leading that effort. Led by forwards Jared Kimbrough, Clifton Moore and Brandon Stone, the Explorers rank 18th in the nation in first in their conference in total blocks with 46.
Free throw shooting. The Explorers have struggled with scoring in general this year, though their performance at the free throw line certainly hasn’t helped in that regard. As a team, La Salle is currently shooting 66.3 percent from the charity stripe, ranking 239th in Division I in that category.
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Maryland’s offense get back on track? After averaging 84 points per game as a team in its first four wins, Maryland’s offense has been unable to eclipse 60 points in each of its last two games. La Salle will likely be one of the most defensively susceptible opponents Maryland will face the rest of the season, making for a decent opportunity for the Terps offense to boost its confidence before returning to Big Ten play.
2. Will Darryl Morsell break out of his scoring slump? Morsell began this season as one of Maryland’s top offensive options, effectively scoring at all three levels to pose a genuine threat to opposing defenses. However, a stretch of poor shooting games coupled with a recent shoulder injury has limited the senior guard to just 10 points on 5-23 over the last two games. With eight days to recover from his ailing shoulder, though, Tuesday’s contest could be a bounce-back performance for Morsell.
“At the end of the day, if I’m on the court, I’ve got a job to fulfill...regardless of what’s going on,” Morsell said. “So like it don’t matter. Whoever watching don’t care. I still got to win games.”
3. Will Maryland be able to force turnovers? Turgeon has turned to a full-court press on several occasions already this year, enjoying some mild success with it depending on the personnel on the floor. La Salle is one of the more turnover prone teams in the nation this season, averaging 15.7 turnovers per game (258th in Division I). If the Terps decide to roll out the press early, it could quickly take La Salle out of the game.
Turning its defense into offense has been an issue for Maryland in its last two games, as it has struggled to be aggressive on defensive and has not taken advantage of limiting fast break chances. Having only totaled 12 points off turnovers and two fast break points against Clemson, followed by nine points off turnovers and seven fast break points against Rutgers, being able to generate offensive momentum from the other end of the floor will be important to improve before getting back into the thick of Big Ten play.
“We want to be able to score out of transition and we want to be able to run and push the ball, but you’re not gonna get those opportunities if you’re not playing defense, you’re not getting stops, you’re not making the other teams shoot contested jump shots and bad shots,” Aaron Wiggins said. “So it’s been tough for us just because we haven’t played as well as we are capable of on defense.”
Vegas: Maryland -15
ESPN BPI: Maryland 85.7% chance to win
KenPom: Maryland 74, La Salle 60 (90% chance to win)
Me: Maryland 81, La Salle 65