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Rutgers Basketball Game 21 Preview: Maryland

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Can the Scarlet Knights break through on the road against the first place Terps?

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

How To Watch & Listen

Rutgers (12-8; 1-6) At Maryland (17-2; 5-1)

Where: XFinity Center in College Park, Maryland

Tip-off: Tuesday, January 24th at 7:00 p.m. ET

TV: BTN - Jeff Levering and Bob Wenzel

Radio: WCTC 1450 AM & WOR 710 AM - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #133; Maryland #44

KenPom Prediction: Maryland 72 Rutgers 61; Rutgers is given a 14% chance of winning

Series History: Maryland leads the all-time series 6-3 and have won all three meetings between the schools as members of the Big Ten.

About Maryland

The Terps enter tonight’s game in first place in the conference and have been very impressive so far this season. They cruised through a decent non-conference schedule with wins over Georgetown, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State, with their only loss coming against Pittsburgh. Maryland has continued their strong play in the Big Ten, owning wins over Indiana at home, as well as Michigan and Iowa on the road. Their only slip up was at home against Nebraska, who Rutgers just defeated this past weekend.

Melo Trimble is one of the best players in the league and is leading Maryland with 17.4 points per game. He also adds 3.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.2 steals per contest. He is complimented in the backcourt by freshman guard Anthony Cowan, who is second on the team in scoring with 11.3 points per game and leads Maryland with 3.7 assists. He also grabs a solid 4.3 boards per game, despite being just 6’0”.

Maryland averages 36% from three-point range and has four players shooting at that mark or above. Freshman Justin Jackson is their most accurate shooter at 41% from behind the arc. The dynamic newcomer is third on the team in scoring and is their leading rebounder, posting totals of 10.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. He is helped in the frontcourt by 6’11” senior Damonte Dodd, who adds 6.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.3 blocked shots per game.

Maryland is a good defensive team that mostly plays man to man and is ranked 31st in the country in adjusted efficiency. However, they are susceptible to giving up offensive rebounds and are not a very physical team. On offense, they are susceptible to takeaways, as their turnover and steal percentages are very high.

Keys To The Game

Prevent Big Runs

Rutgers cannot afford to surrender a huge run at any time in this game. They are simply not built to come from behind by double digits, due to their lack of weapons behind the arc. Maryland on the other hand, is dangerous from three-point range and Rutgers must continue to play strong perimeter defense. The Scarlet Knights are second in conference play in defending the three, holding opponents to just 29.7% from deep. They also can’t give up pick six’s as head coach Steve Pikiell likes to call turnovers that result in easy transition baskets for the other team.

Win The Turnover Battle

One weakness for the Terps is they turn the ball over 20.2% which is 257th in the country per KenPom. Rutgers is actually slightly worse, coming in at 20.4% and ranked 271st. Turnovers have been an issue for the Scarlet Knights all season and they committed 21 of them in their last road game at Indiana. To have any chance in this game, Rutgers must handle the basketball with care, while forcing Maryland into takeaways and convert them into transition baskets on the other end.

As Always, Dominate Offensive Glass

Another Maryland weakness is they are giving up offensive rebounds 30.8% of their opponents opportunities, which is 224th in the country. Rutgers has the 9th highest offensive rebounding rate in the country at 38.9%. We know their ability to convert those boards into second chance points is a major key for them in every game. They've been consistently out-rebounding their Big Ten opponents and tonight they need a big effort from Deshawn Freeman and CJ Gettys, who have a chance to control the paint against a finesse type team like Maryland.

Need Offensive Balance

Maryland will obviously key in on Corey Sanders and try to contain him on the offensive end. Other players will need to step up and produce some points for Rutgers to be competitive. They had four players score in double figures against Nebraska and that kind of balance will be needed tonight. Mike Williams has not been able to get going since coming down with the flu a couple of weeks ago. If he can get back on track and hit a couple of shots early, it will bode well for this team, both in this game and beyond.

The Melo Factor

It was reported that Maryland’s best player, Melo Trimble, did not practice yesterday due to an illness and that his status for this game is uncertain. This would certainly be a huge blow to Maryland and make this game even more intriguing from a Rutgers perspective. If Melo doesn't play, the Terps will certainly be missing some firepower and their leader. If he does play, he likely will be less than 100%. Even so, Rutgers needs to focus on themselves by playing smart on offense and hard on defense for a full 40 minutes. Remember, Penn State’s veteran guard Shep Garner was sick against Rutgers and was held scoreless, but the Nittany Lions still won by 13 points. If Rutgers doesn't play at a high level, Melo’s performance won't make much of a difference.

Injury Update:

In addition to Melo, Maryland has two other injury concerns. Michal Cekovsky is a 7’1” big man from Slovakia and hasn’t played since mid-December. Wiley hasn’t played since New Year’s Day. It appears both are close to returning tonight.

In The Bonus

I expect Rutgers to come out ready to play and have more confidence on the road in this game, after finally breaking through over the weekend with their victory over Nebraska. They need to bring energy and focus right from the opening tip. Maryland is a relatively young team and it's possible they may underestimate Rutgers in the beginning of the game. If they can establish their presence in the paint on offense and defend well in the halfcourt, they will be competitive in this game. It would take their best performance of the season to get on the bus with a victory, but it’s fair to at least hope for a strong effort in this game. They have every reason to be loose in this one, as all the pressure is on Maryland. Hopefully, the black uniforms can add a little hop in their step too!