Where: Cassell Coliseum
TV: The ACC Network
Maryland flattened Virginia Tech 94-71 in the first meeting. The Hokies were playing bad basketball at the time, and the Terps jumped out to a 13-1 start to the season. However, Tech’s defense has improved, and Mark Turgeon’s team has struggled on the road this season, going just 1-4 in true road games.
Nov. 27: 77-57 W at Northwestern
Jan. 13: 54-47 L at Miami
Jan. 19: 62-52 L at UNC
Jan. 26: 84-64 L at Duke
Jan. 30: 73-71 L at FSU
The Terps haven’t won a road game since their ACC-Big Ten Challenge matchup against the Northwestern Wildcats. However, they’ll be facing a smaller Virginia Tech team with a depleted roster. Things could be even worse for the Hokies this time around as far as bodies are concerned. C.J. Barksdale and Marquis Rankin are listed as questionable with the flu. If they don’t play, Tech will have just six scholarship players available for tonight’s game, and one of those, Marshall Wood, is still on the comeback trail from a foot injury.
Overall, Maryland is 16-6 on the season with a 4-5 record in the ACC. They might find themselves on the NCAA Tournament bubble this season, but they have a good future with Mark Turgeon running the show, and so many young players on the roster.
Maryland has a deep rotation, though they are a fairly young team overall. In particular, their bench features a number of freshmen.
G Pe’Shon Howard (6-3, 190, Jr.): Howard only averages 3.3 points per game, and he’s only made 19 field goals this season. He is only shooting 26.4% from the field and 24.3% from three-point range. However, he has 93 assists on the season, and he’s a very experienced ACC guard. He had six assists in the first meeting with Virginia Tech.
G Nick Faust (6-6, 205, So.): A big guard who averages 8.5 points per game, Faust is only shooting 37% from the field this season. He’s a big, lengthy guard who can score inside, and he helps Maryland defensively.
G Dez Wells (6-5, 215, So.): A transfer from Xavier, Dez Wells used to play on the same Hargrave team as Robert Brown, C.J. Barksdale and Marquis Rankin. He averages 12.2 points per game. He’s not a great outside shooter (29.4%), but he’s a big guy and a difficult matchup. I expect Wells to defend Erick Green for part of the game tonight.
F James Padgett (6-8, 235, Sr.): The most experienced player on Maryland’s team, Padgett averages 17.7 minutes per game. He is averaging 5.9 points and four rebounds per game. He only played 13 minutes in the first meeting with the Hokies, and he did not score.
C Alex Len (7-1, 255, So.): The sophomore from the Ukraine is Maryland’s best player, averaging 12.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He also had 42 blocked shots in 22 games. He visited Virginia Tech the summer before his freshman season, but he ultimately enrolled at Maryland. Len could be a lottery pick in the NBA draft. He’s a very skilled big man who can shoot the ball with range. He had 16 points and nine rebounds in the first meeting.
Maryland’s bench is deep, but young.
G Seth Allen (6-1, 190, Fr.): Allen is shooting 40% from the field, and he’s averaging 7.4 points per game. He’s been very impressive for a freshman, and he looks to be Maryland’s point guard of the future. A 35.1% three-point shooter, Allen has to be guarded on the perimeter. He dropped 21 points on the Hokies off the bench last month.
F Charles Mitchell (6-8, 260, Fr.): Mitchell is another impressive freshman who is averaging 6.2 points and six rebounds per game. He is a big body on the inside. He had eight points and five rebounds against Tech in January.
G Logan Aronhalt (6-3, 205, r-Sr.): The transfer from Albany was brought in to shoot three-pointers, and he’s done exactly that. Aronhalt is 48.6% from behind the arc this season, and is easily Maryland’s best outside shooter. He hit two three pointers against the Hokies in the first meeting.
C Shaquille Cleare (6-9, 265, Fr.): The freshman from the Bahamas plays 14.1 minutes per game, and is averaging 4.5 points and 3.4 boards.
F Jake Layman (6-8, 205, Fr.): Layman, yet another freshman, was a 4-star recruit out of high school, and he’s played an average of 17.3 minutes per game. He’s only shooting 32.8% from the outside this year, and that number was way down during the non-conference portion of Maryland’s schedule. However, he went 4-of-9 from the outside against Virginia Tech and scored 20 points in the process. That game got the ball rolling for Layman, who has been playing better since.
Hokies are Improving, but are they Wearing Down?
Virginia Tech played much better basketball last week. They gave Miami, now ranked #8 in the country, all they could handle in Cassell Coliseum. A few days later, they led UNC for 90% of the game in the Dean Dome before faltering in overtime.
I think the team is improving defensively, and I hope the UNC game taught them a valuable lesson: if your shot isn’t falling, and your leading scorer isn’t having his usual 25 point performance, you can still stay in the game by playing tough defense. The Hokies played good defense against the Tar Heels, and were able to battle them to the end as a result.
However, James Johnson thinks his team, including Erick Green, might be wearing down due to a lack of depth and the number of illnesses that have run through the team. The Hokies didn’t practice on Sunday or Monday simply so they could rest their legs, and if Barksdale and Rankin both have the flu, that likely means that they haven’t even practiced since the end of last week.
The Hokies have two winnable home games against Maryland and Georgia Tech, but are they too worn down to take advantage? We’ll find out starting tonight.