Maryland (10-9; 2-6) at Rutgers (11-7; 5-3)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway, New Jersey
Tip-off: Tuesday, January 25 at 8:00 p.m. ET
TV: BTN - Jason Horowitz and Len Elmore
Stream: FOX Sports Live
NET Rankings: Rutgers No. 107; Maryland No. 99 (QUAD 3 opponent)
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers - No. 94, on spot worse following a 68-65 loss at Minnesota on Saturday. Maryland - No. 90, six spots worse following a 81-71 loss to Iowa last Sunday.
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 103.7 (161st) Defense 95.3 (45th); Maryland - Offense 107.8 (85th) Defense 98.2 (76th)
KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 67 Maryland 64. Rutgers is given a 59% chance to win.
Vegas Line: Rutgers -4
Series History: Maryland leads the all-time series 12-6 and 9-3 as Big Ten foes. Rutgers has won three of the last four meetings, including a 70-59 victory on January 15.
Maryland: 6’5” senior Eric Ayala - 15.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 35.9% 3-pt FG; 6’8” junior Donta Scott - 13.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 30.9% 3-pt FG; 5’11” senior Fatts Russell - 12.6 points, 4.0 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.0 steal, 27.5% 3-pt FG; 6’8” junior Hakim Hart - 9.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.7 steals; 30.0% 3-pt FG; 6’11” junior Qudus Wahab - 8.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 56.7% FG; 6’9” freshman Julian Reese - 6.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.0 blocks; 6’3” sophomore Ian Martinez - 2.6 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists; 6’6” senior guard Xavier Green - 1.9 points, 2.6 rebounds
Rutgers: 6’6” senior Ron Harper Jr. - 16.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 45.7% 3-pt FG; 6’4” senior Geo Baker - 11.9 points, 4.1 assists, 2.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 33.7% 3-pt FG; 6’11” sophomore Cliff Omoruyi - 10.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.1 block, 57.5% FG; 6’6” junior Paul Mulcahy - 7. 1 points, 5.1 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 32.6% 3-pt FG; 6’7” senior Caleb McConnell - 6.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.1 steals; 6’6” sophomore Aundre Hyatt - 5.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists; 6’8” freshman Jaden Jones - 4.4 points, 1.4 rebounds; 6’7” sophomore Mawot Mag - 3.5 points, 1.8 rebounds; 6’8” senior Ralph Gonzales-Agee - 2.8 points, 1.2 rebounds; 6’10 sophomore Dean Reiber - 2.4 points, 1.4 rebounds; 6’8” sophomore Oskar Palmquist - 1.7 points, 4-8 3-pt FG; 6’2” freshman Jalen Miller - 1.2 points
It’s been a tumultuous season for the Terps with former head coach Mark Turgeon stepping down in December after a 5-3 start, which included 5 point loss to George Mason (KenPom No. 126). They’ve 5-6 since but did upset No. 15 Illinois on Friday, although Kofi Cockburn missed the game due to an injury.
The Terps are 1-3 on the road this season with a double overtime victory at Northwestern the only breakthrough.
On the season, Maryland is shooting 49.3% from two-point range (194th), 31.6% from three-point range (270th) and 74.6% from the foul line (66th). They average 71.1 points per game and are allowing opponents to score 69.5 points per contest. In Big Ten play, the Terps are 9th in offensive efficiency and 11th in defensive efficiency.
Maryland gets to the foul line often, as they are 37th nationally in free attempts to field goal attempts and 3rd in the league in free throw rate. They typically take advantage from the charity stripe as they are shooting 74.6% for the season (66th) and 72.5% (6th) in Big Ten play. On the flipside, they are only allowing Big Ten opponents a free throw rate of 20.9%, which is second lowest in league play.
Behind the arc in conference action, the Terps are 6th at 35,2% and Big Ten opponents are only shooting 32.6% (5th).
A major weakness is ranking 323rd nationally in defensive turnover rate at just 15.7%. It’s even lower at 14.4% in Big Ten play, which is 11th.
The guards dictate the action for the Terps behind veterans Eric Ayala and Donta Scott, along with Rhode Island transfer Fatts Russell. They are a perimeter oriented team that thrive on opponent mistakes, but have trouble generating offense on its own.
For the season, the Scarlet Knights are averaging 67.6 points per game and allowing 64.2 points per contest.....RU is shooting only 47.0% from two-point range (271st), 34.3% from three-point range (136th) and 68.0% from the foul line (271st)......They are ranked 7th nationally in assist rate at 63.8%, 43rd in two-point defense holding opponents to 45.6% and 69th in effective field goal percentage on defense at 47.3%.......Rutgers is 12th in offensive efficiency and 4th in defensive efficiency in Big Ten play so far this season......RU is shooting a league best 41.8% from three-point range while also holding conference opponents to 31.7% from behind the arc in Big Ten play (4th)......They are in the top 5 in six of eight defensive categories in Big Ten play including first in free throw rate, 2nd in steal rate, 3rd in turnover rate, 4th in 3-pt defense as well as 5th in effective field goal percentage and block rate.......Rutgers is 10-3 this season when holding opponents under 70 points and 8-2 when outrebounding opponents.
Keys To Victory
These two teams met just ten days ago when Rutgers played two distinctly different halves of basketball against Maryland on the road. It’s symbolic of the inconsistent play that has plagued RU all season. In the first half, the Scarlet Knights committed 11 turnovers and 12 fouls. Not surprisingly, it resulted in a double digit deficit. In the second half, Rutgers defended without fouling, committed fewer turnovers and shared the basketball, which led to big shots being made.
The biggest key is making things difficult for Maryland on the offensive end. No easy baskets off of turnovers while also limiting them from the free throw line.
The Scarlet Knights have really struggled with turnovers in Big Ten play, averaging 13.75 through eight games after averaging just 10.6 turnovers in ten non-conference contests. Opponents are getting higher percentage scoring chances because of the takeaways and it’s becoming a problem. Taking better care of the basketball is a must, tonight and moving forward. The Terps scored 23 points off of turnovers in the first meeting which can’t happen again.
Maryland is efficient at getting to the foul line and shooting from there as well. We saw what happens when Rutgers let their strength shine in the first meeting and how the Terps struggled to score when they were limited in that area.
Frustrating Eric Ayala, their top scorer, is key as well. He had 8 points in the first five minutes at College Park. Once Caleb McConnell adjusted and fought through screens, he shot just 2 of 11 from the floor the rest of the way for 5 points. Containing him from the opening tip could help Rutgers establish an early lead.
The Scarlet Knights had their second most efficient defensive performance in Big Ten play against the Terps. Ron Harper Jr. also scored a career high 31 points including 6 of 8 from three-point range. They can’t count on either happening again and need to make sure not to be as deficient in areas just reviewed. You would think Danny Manning would adjust and double team Harper Jr. at some point tonight, so finding the open man is important to burn them on.
When Rutgers rebounds, they are much more difficult to beat. When they don’t, opponents score more easily against them. They were just +1 against Maryland in the first meeting and need to make crashing the glass a priority in this game.
In their last two games, RU is an abysmal 15 of 37 for 40.5% on layups or shots near the rim. That doesn’t include making all six dunk attempts. Against Maryland, the Scarlet Knights were 8 of 12 on layups and need to attack more in this game. Paul Mulcahy has been moving the basketball well and finding open shooters. He was able to use his size against Maryland it led to a season high 15 points. Funneling the offense through him again makes sense, but he needs to lead the way with taking care of the basketball as he had 7 turnovers in the first meeting. He did have 9 assists to just 2 turnovers in the loss to Minnesota but was less involved when RU went cold down the stretch on Saturday.
Also, getting Cliff Omoruyi involved early and often will help make him a factor on both ends in this game.
This is a team Rutgers knows they can beat, but last season in the same scenario, they lost at home to the Terps after beating them on the road. They can’t afford to have that happen this time, as the Scarlet Knights have to go at least 8-2 at home in Big Ten play to have a chance at the postseason. Losing to Maryland is not an option with the February slate looming. After a disappointing loss to Minnesota, the short turnaround and return home hopefully gets this team back on track. Playing together on both ends of the floor, as well as being smart with the ball and fundamentally sound on the defensive end are keys to doing so.
For this game, I chose “You Ain’t The Problem” by Michael Kiwanuka. A truly underrated musician who just makes consistently good music touches on a season theme for Rutgers men’s basketball.
While this team continues to struggle winning on the road, they have once again made the RAC (Jersey Mike’s Arena) a difficult place for Big Ten opponents to play with fans back in the building. They went 9-1 at home in conference action two seasons ago with fans and they are currently 4-0. Defending its homecourt isn’t the problem, but it needs to stay that way.
Sweeping Maryland this season is crucial and remaining undefeated at home in Big Ten play is as well. Taking care of business tonight is essential as Rutgers has a three game stretch they need to at worst go 2-1, but most likely need to win all three to reasonably stay alive for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Need to regroup and be the tougher team in this matchup and if they are, the Terps will likely climb into their shells late in the game. If they let them hang around, another missed opportunity could be the result.