USA Today

Maryland pregame

Minnesota is at Maryland this evening looking to extend their win streak to six games. Maryland is ranked 23rd in the nation though at 22-5 with a Big Ten record of 10-4.

The Storyline

Minnesota had Maryland down double figures the first meeting on January 27th but a ridiculous shooting night from freshmen Justin Jackson and Kevin Hueter led to ten three point makes from the pair.  That shooting stretched the Golden Gopher defense to past capacity and the Terrapins left Williams Arena with an 85-78 victory.

Maryland is coming off a tough loss 71-60 in Madison. The Badgers not only beat them by double figures but the game was such a struggle that Maryland Head Coach Mark Turgeon benched Melo Trimble and others for their lack of effort on the glass (Wisconsin dominated Maryland 44-27 on the boards).

Maryland lost 7-foot-1, 250 pound center Michal Cekovsky for the season because of a fractured ankle against Wisconsin which made things even worse.  Maryland has continued to use a ten man rotation with Cekovsky backing up Damonte Dodd but his injury takes away about eight points and three boards in 16-17 Big Ten minutes off the bench.

Minnesota is of course 8-6 in the Big Ten and winners of five straight Big Ten games.  The Gophers are so excited about their season they’ve started a small marketing campaign promoting Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy as All Big Ten players, Reggie Lynch for All-Defensive Team, Amir Coffey for All Freshman, and for Richard Pitino as Coach of the Year.

The Numbers

All Big Ten you say?  Yes! Nate Mason ranks second in assists in the Big Ten (5.3) and seventh in scoring (15ppg).  He also is 16th overall in the NCAAs in assist to turnover ratio (3 to 1).  As far as Jordan Murphy goes he’s fourth in in the Big Ten in rebounding (8.5 rpg) and has had a double-double four straight games.

Reggie ranks fourth in blocks in the NCAA (3.1 a game) and is a top ten Big Ten rebounder (6.4).  Amir Coffey is the third leading scorer in the league as far as freshman go (12.3) and he’s second on the team in scoring, assists, and steals.  Coach Pitino?  Greatest single season turnaround in school history and the best in division one college basketball this year.

Back to Maryland, Minnesota hammered the Terrapins on the glass last game 41-31 while the Gophs only had ten turnovers.  Minnesota shot 9 of 17 from the arc, had five guys in double figures, and had a lead.  But Maryland shot an incredible 14 of 22 from the arc and it was their forwards making these shots plus they made 51 percent of the field goals overall.

Justin Jackson was perfect on five three point attempts leading to his 28 points and ten boards.  Huerter made 5 of 7 from the arc and Melo Trimble had 13 points, 9 assists, and 7 boards not needing to shoot for the team to win the game.

Jackson averages 10.8 points and 6.2 rebounds a game shooting 45 percent at the arc and Huerter puts up 8.9 points and five boards a game shooting 38 percent at the arc.  Maryland is not likely to get the same explosive results from the freshman pair that they did in the first game but both are talented players and will produce.

The Match-Ups

Reggie Lynch completely shut down Cekovsky and Dodd in the previous game as expected.  Reggie had 10 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks.  That said Lynch is coming off a couple frustrating games minutes wise including the last contest where he did have 11 points and 8 boards but was sat late in the game in favor or Eric Curry. Gophers need another strong performance from Lynch against Dodd although who knows what Turgeon plans to do with the Cekovsky minutes (he does have another center to use or he could go small).

Nate Mason was outplayed by Melo Trimble in the previous game even though Minnesota did a great job of keeping Trimble from getting deep in the paint.  But Mason’s 2 of 10 shooting hurt and Mason and other Gophers weren’t able to keep Melo and Anthony Cowan from attacking and kicking to the corners for Jackson and Huerter looks.  Maryland will not be that hot again at the arc but Minnesota has to keep the Maryland guards in front like they did at Williams Arena.

Jordan Murphy, Eric Curry, and Amir Coffey had the tough task of helping deep in the paint on Cowan (5 five assists) and Trimble (9 assists) attacks and then trying to recover to the 6-foot-7 shooters.  The Gophers were able to stop the advance to the rim with this help but they gave up the arc and the corner threes.

This is where things get tough. Minnesota first wants to stop the advance to the rim by Trimble and Cowan again.  Odds are Huerter and Jackson won’t shoot as well.  But if they do Minnesota will need to make a quicker adjustment which likely means opening up the middle.  And if that happens Reggie Lynch must stay out of foul trouble .

The last time these teams played Eric Curry and Jordan Murphy were not playing like they are right now.  Murphy has recorded five straight double doubles and Curry is giving jack of all trades production.  Huerter and Jackson will have to deal with the off ball activity of Murphy and somebody has to play with Lynch inside when Dodd is on the bench.

Prediction.

I expect more from Trimble and Cowan tonight but less from the arc from the Maryland frontcourt.  The Gophers are getting great play from most of their team including Dupree McBrayer who was in a slump.  With Minnesota playing their best basketball of the year and Maryland coming off a tough loss and an injury this looks like it will be a close game.

That said I worry that Maryland will be able to break the Gopher defense down once again.  If Lynch is in the middle to be the last line of defense for more than 24 minutes the Gophers can pull this off.  But if Maryland is hitting from the arc at 40 percent or better they win this game even though Minnesota will out-rebound them.  My gut says they respond strongly from the Wisconsin loss and win by two scores.

Maryland 74 Minnesota 69.


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