The Terps are becoming regular visitors to the Big Apple, with Maryland partaking in preseason hoops tournaments in three of the last four seasons. After a semi-New York City drought, UMD returned to the Empire State in style back in 2012, opening its season at the Barclays Center clad in old-school Brooklyn gray uniforms for a touted matchup against Kentucky. A season later, Maryland once again began its campaign at Barclays, this time against another notable foe, UConn. Then, after a year off from NYC, the Terps played UConn once again, although in a different venue: Madison Square Garden.
Now, Maryland will be back in New York for the fourth time in the last half decade for a post-Thanksgiving, two-game, two-day tourney at Barclays. Maryland’s first opponent Nov. 25, Richmond, doesn’t hold quite the same clout as the Wildcats or Huskies, but it’ll be another solid early-season tune-up for the young Terps.
The Spiders are somewhat similar to Towson -- an experienced, savvy squad that gave developing UMD some trouble before the Terps prevailed late. Picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic-10, Richmond has shown flashes of being even better than that thus far. The Spiders sit 3-1 overall with wins over VMI, Robert Morris and Hampton, with their lone loss coming by three points against Old Dominion.
Richmond -- which Maryland last played back in the 1982 NIT at Madison Square Garden -- isn’t a particularly deep team, with about seven reliable bodies, nor are they particularly long. They won’t light up the gym with 3s (35 percent) and they aren’t particularly adept on the glass.
But they start three seniors, including two who rank among the Atlantic-10’s best, and are considered an all-around, fundamentally sound squad. The Spiders pride themselves on a stifling matchup zone (opponents average just 63 points on 37 percent shooting), while actively moving the ball and limiting mistakes on offense (1.33 assist-to-turnover ratio).
“On a positive note, I think our defense played very, very well,” Richmond coach Chris Mooney told the Richmond Dispatch after its last game against Hampton. “Offensively, I thought we were very choppy. I thought we got a little bit stagnant against their zone. Zone does that to you.
“But our passing and our sense for the game should allow us to be better than that.”
Power forward T.J. Cline, who was projected as one of the most proficient offensive performers in the country heading into the season, is a 6-foot-9, 230-pounder with touch underneath; ranged to the 3-point arc; and plenty of prowess on the defensive end. He’s averaging 17 points on 52 percent shooting, connects on 36.4 percent of his 3-point attempts, dishes out 5.5 assists per game; and grabs a team-high six rebounds a night.
Meanwhile, heady floor general ShawnDre’ Jones is putting up almost 20 points per game on 53 percent shooting. The 6-footer has connected on 55 percent of his triples, hands out 3.5 assists a night and is good for a steal or two each game.
Those two account for the bulk of Richmond’s production, but sophomore guard Kwahn Fore has shown flashes of breaking out offensively, while he’s already a stout defensive presence (team-high seven steals, 4.0 rebounds per game).
Senior forward Marshall Wood is a solid complimentary piece who can shoot the 3 (45 percent) and grab a handful of boards. And sophomore wing Julius Johnson has picked up the pace of late, with a career high eight points and seven rebounds in Richmond’s latest victory.
The Terps, though, are more talented and much deeper than Richmond, especially if big man Michal Cekovsky and guard Dion Wiley continue progressing. Cekovsky, who returned to the floor for the first time this season Nov. 22, ended up scoring 11 points against Stony Brook before fouling out. Wiley, for his part, had a season-high 13 points after struggling to find his stroke during the season’s first four games. Wiley canned 4-of-5 from range, aiding the Terps in a season-best 42-percent from beyond the arc.
Jaylen Brantley and Jared Nickens also contributed, helping UMD to 33 bench points.
The latter’s efforts took the pressure off of Maryland’s starting freshmen trio of Justin Jackson, Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan, who have been the Terps’ most consistent performers besides junior Melo Trimble.
“That was the deepest we've been all year,” Turgeon said. “We've had so many guys not playing well. Tonight I was nervous.
“It’s nice for [the freshmen] not to have to carry the load tonight, and have other guys do it. It’s hard at that young age to have to that every night. I was kind of happy they didn’t have to do that tonight.”
The Terps held Stony Brook to 34 percent shooting in another stout defensive effort, although UMD was out-rebounded once again, 38-35. However, Jackson did his part nine rebounds, and Huerter had five. And Trimble was particularly feisty on defense with three steals, while also pouring in a game-high 21 points.
“We did some nice things defensively, but once again we didn’t rebound,” said Turgeon. “I thought we guarded pretty well. And in the second half we ran better than we’ve run all year and shot it better than we have, 8-of-19 (from three-point range). We shot less threes and played more inside-out than we have all year because of Ceko.
“[But] we fouled a lot. We can’t get separation or get in the flow of the game like we want to when you foul as much as we’re fouling. We’ll have to figure out a way to rebound better and play without fouling.”
If the Terps play anywhere close to how they did against Stony Brook, though, they should beat Richmond and move on to play the winner of the Boston College-Kansas State game Nov. 26. A date with the 4-0 Wildcats would represent arguably the second-toughest test for Maryland so far this year, next to Georgetown.