4:00 PM EST, ESPN – Line: Maryland -4, Over/Under: 138
A Big Ten showdown is on tap today at the Xfinity Center in College Park, as the fourth-ranked Maryland Terrapins host the eighteenth-ranked Purdue Boilermakers. Off to their best start in years, Purdue (19-4, 7-3, 4th in Big Ten) are looking to build off of their return to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year drought. Matt Painter and his charges got off to an 11-0 start, and have since won eight out of the following twelve contests. After an 83-71 loss at Iowa, the Boilermakers bounced back to string together back-to-back victories over the likes of Minnesota (68-64) and most recently Nebraska (89-74). While the former was a hotly contested affair, the latter was a romp for the Big Ten’s fourth-ranked club, who utterly dominated the Huskers last Saturday; the hosts shot a scorching 58.9% from the field, including 7-of-12 from beyond the three-point arc (58.3%), assisting on a very healthy twenty-seven of their thirty-three field goals. Simply put, Senior Center A.J. Hammons went OFF, scoring a career-high thirty-two points on 14-of-17 shooting (82.4%), to go along with eleven rebounds, five assists, and four blocks. Fellow Senior Raphael Davis added another seventeen points, drilling all but one of his five attempts from downtown (80.0%), while Isaac Haas logged thirteen points off the Bench. Upon watching today’s game, the first thing that you should notice is the tremendous size that both teams bring to the court, particularly Purdue. Hammons and Haas alone stand 7′-0″ and 7′-2″ respectively, while stud Freshman Caleb Swanigan stands 6′-9″ himself. Thanks to Painter’s preference in recruiting big men, the Boilermakers are one of the toughest teams in the country to bully in the paint, where they typically own a steep advantage on the glass; they lead the conference in rebounding advantage (plus-12.4 per game), along with offensive rebounding (12.9 per game), For instance, against Nebraska they were a ridiculous plus-19 on the boards. And how exactly does this benefit them you ask? While we all know that offensive rebounds often equate to easy, second-chance points, boards of the defensive variety do the very opposite for the opposition; at 27.2 defensive rebounds per game, that is 27.2 times that their opponent is ends a possession with no points. It also allows the Boilermakers to kick-start their own offense, which is one of the most efficient in the nation. Painter’s charges rank second in league play with 17.3 helpers per game, and seventh overall with 18.0 per outing on the season. In Big Ten play they have assisted on 62.9% of their field goals, which have been distributed throughout a deep rotation that ranges from nine to ten players deep; ten different Boilermakers have logged at least thirteen minutes per game, with that number swelling to twelve in conference play. The aforementioned Hammons, who was just named one of ten finalists for the Abdul-Jabbar Award (Nation’s Best Center), has been an absolute beast in league action, raising his scoring (15.5), while posting impressive averages of 7.6 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks, with by far and away the top PER (Player Efficiency Rating) on the team (29.9). Keep an eye on him in the painted area, for it should be very interesting to see how he and his fellow big men perform against Maryland’s own mob of giants.
Meanwhile, sitting just a game ahead of the Boilermakers in the standings are the Terrapins (20-3, 9-2, 3rd in Big Ten), who after a loss at East Lansing (74-65), have rebounded to string together three consecutive victories. Granted, all three of those wins were by fairly close margins, with each being decided by six points or less. In that, they share a common opponent, with their most recent outing coming against Nebraska. However, whereas Purdue steamrolled the Husker a week ago, Maryland went down to the wire with the Children of the Corn, outlasting them in a 70-65 triumph. So how exactly does a Top-5 Team nearly succumb to a mediocre 12-13 side, you ask? Two words, folks: extra possessions. Despite relegating the denizens of Lincoln, Nebraska to a dreadful 31.8% shooting from the field, the Terps were beaten on the offensive glass (thirteen to eleven), and committed sixteen turnovers, which allowed their opponent to get some easier looks in transition. Not to mention, Turgeon’s kids missed nine free-throws, which could have gone a long way towards sealing the deal on a close contest. This all created quite a disparity Wednesday Night, as the home side attempted seventeen more field goals than the visitors, nearly negating a 51.0% shooting performance. National Player of the Year Candidate Melo Trimble led the way with twenty points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field (71.4%), including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc (60.0%), to go with a pair of rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Stud Freshman Center Diamond Stone added sixteen points on 8-of-15 shooting (53.3%), along with ten rebounds, and a staggering eight blocks, while Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon put in another eleven points on 4-of-7 shooting (57.1%), to go with three rebounds and an assist. To keep this run going today, Maryland will need a far more concerted effort on the glass, as they prepare to encounter one of the few teams in the country that possesses as much size as they do, if not more. However, the numbers in league play thus far would suggest that this particular team laden with bigs doesn’t make the most of their cache of size. Over halfway through the Big Ten schedule, the Terrapins have only outrebounded their opponents by 3.9 boards per game, a modest figure considering their counterparts today have nearly tripled that number. With that said, that hasn’t really effected them defensively, where they lead the conference in points allowed (64.1) and opponents’ field goal percentage (38.4%), while yielding the second-fewest percentage from downtown (28.9%). And this is where their size and length comes into play; the denizens of College Park have racked up the most blocks in the Big Ten (6.3), thanks in large part to the triumvirate of the Robert Carter, Jake Layman, and the aforementioned Stone accounting for 4.9 swats per game. Standing 6′-9″, 6′-9″, and 6′-11″, these three have the requisite measurables to deter the behemoths of Purdue from the rim. Stone though, has been as advertised, averaging 13.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks as a highly touted Frosh. However, the difference between these teams is at the game’s most important position, where the Terps have the aforementioned Trimble, while the Boilermakers do not. The Sophomore has improved sizably following an outstanding Freshman campaign, averaging 14.8 points on 47.2% shooting, including 34.7% shooting from three, with 2.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.4 steals, the latter two which lead the team. Expect him to put forth a far better performance this time around, after the egg that he laid in last year’s meeting with Painter’s charges; Trimble scored just eleven points on a dismal 1-of-7 shooting form the field (14.3%), with four rebounds, an assist, and a steal in a 69-60 victory in which both teams struggled to throw the ball in the ocean, shooting below 38.0% apiece.