COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The second leg of a two-game series between crosstown rivals Maryland and Georgetown Nov. 15 could very well be a reverse of last year’s border war.
A season ago, when the Terps (1-0) hosted the Hoyas (1-0) in Xfinity Center and came away with a victory, UMD featured a touted, nationally-ranked squad with Final Four aspirations, while GU ran out an inexperienced squad attempting to gain its footing. This time around, in D.C.’s Verizon Center, it’s the Hoyas with the loaded roster and the Terps with the young team.
“We’re definitely a different dynamic than last year,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. “This is a big-time team we’re playing tomorrow night. I think Georgetown is a top-15 team in the country. One through 10, they’re as good as any team I’ve seen. And after what happened last year, they’re playing with a chip on their shoulder.”
Not only are the Hoyas talented, but Georgetown coach John Thompson III has spurned his tried-and-true Princeton system in favor of a an up-tempo offense and a full-court pressing defense. Gone are the plodders; in are the speedy, dynamic playmakers. Gone are the burly frontcourt glass cleaners; in are the long, uber-athletic shot blockers. Moreover, the Hoyas, which typically have employed a stringent starting lineup with only a few backups, are deeper and more versatile than ever before.
Sure, Georgetown’s new-look style could prove to be short-lived if the ball-handling doesn’t improve or opponents find a way to solve the press, but early on the Hoyas look like a potentially dangerous squad. They’ve only played South Carolina Upstate so far on the young season, but the Hoyas dismantled their foes 105-61.
The Hoyas feature a star-studded backcourt with Robert Morris transfer guard Rodney Pryor, who put up 32 points in the season opener; and veterans L.J. Peak and Tre Campbell, who both scored in double figures as well. Jessie Govan and Isaac Copeland, two versatile big men, start in the frontcourt and are mismatches Maryland has to deal with.
And those are just the headliners.
“It will be interesting what matchups they go with," Turgeon said. "We can play big, they can play big. Copeland is like a guard, though, he plays the 4.
“[John Thompson III has] got the perfect team for [the press and fast-break], and kudos to him for doing it. They have great depth, and that ‘s a great way to keep everyone happy, pressing and playing a little bit faster. I was luck enough to coach in the Missouri Valley against Tom Davis, and those presses were the best. I learned a lot in those days. Hopefully our guys will get the proper spacing, do what they need to do and be strong with the ball.
"We’re looking forward to playing against this system; it’s good for us. To see how quickly we can grow up from [Nov. 11] to [Nov. 15], it’ll be a big test.”
Indeed, the Terps will have to grow up rather quickly to hang with the Hoyas in D.C. Maryland didn’t play particularly well in its opening victory against American, surviving a late deficit to emerge with a 62-56 win. UMD turned the ball over 18 times and recorded just seven assists. They shot a meager 38.5 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from range.
Senior center Damonte Dodd, the team’s main paint presence, played 11 total minutes after getting into early foul trouble. Starting forward Jared Nickens took five shots, including four 3s, in 15 minutes – and missed them all. Dion Wiley came off the bench, tossed up six shots, and hit only one. And junior point guard Melo Trimble hoisted up 19 shots (making nine), while no one else on the squad attempted more than six.
“We’re not going to win games if Melo is taking 19 shots and the next guy 6. We were very selfish, for us. This team can really pass; we can do some nice things, and we didn’t do it [against American],” Turgeon said. “We have to be more unselfish, we have to play more together. When that happens, the shot selection will be better.”
The good news is Maryland’s freshmen have already started to make strides. Two-guard Kevin Huerter and point guard Anthony Cowan, who dropped in 12 points and had nine boards against American, were dubbed the team’s two best perimeter defenders, per Turgeon. Plus, freshman forward Justin Jackson chipped in nine rebounds.
But the Terps will need more than just a trio of freshmen to overcome Georgetown in the loud and raucous Verizon Center. Namely, they’re going to need Trimble, their leader, to revert to form.
The Upper Marlboro, Md., native said taking on the Hoyas represents one of the biggest games of his career, mainly because he grew up in the shadows of both Maryland and Georgetown. Terps’ fans have to hope he responds in kind.
“There’s nothing like playing a team that’s from the area, from down the street,” Trimble said. “It doesn’t make sense we don’t play them more. I wish [the series] could go on longer.”