Welcome to the Sunday Terps Look-Ahead, a weekly feature breaking down the upcoming action for the Maryland men’s basketball team, as well as a brief recap of its most recent games. Let’s get started.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED
Could these Terrapins have experienced a bigger reversal of emotions in three-day span? After Michael Snaer broke their hearts with a game-winning three-pointer Wednesday at Florida State, Maryland returned home and blew out Wake Forest by 26 points. The Terps were never really threatened, setting new season-bests for field-goal percentage and three-point percentage, while a season-high six players scored in double figures.
The disappointment suffered in Tallahassee, Fla., eventually dissipated, Maryland took care of business in a feel-good, bench-emptying victory over the Demon Deacons, and now head into a five-day break before its next game, a road test at Virginia Tech and then a big home date with Virginia three days later.
WHO’S UP NEXT
Thursday, Feb. 7 at 9 p.m.: at Virginia Tech (11-10, 2-6 ACC, 148 RPI) in Blacksburg, Va. Televised on ACC Network.
Sunday, Feb. 10 at 1 p.m.: vs. Virginia (15-5, 5-2 ACC, 94 RPI) at Comcast Center. Televised on ACC Network.
WHAT THEY’VE DONE
Virginia Tech: The Hokies have labored through ACC play, having lost four straight, though they have appeared on the cusp of some major upsets. Most recently, Virginia Tech went down to the wire at home against Miami and took North Carolina to overtime on the road. In both games, however, the Hokies faded late, losing by nine and 12 points, respectively.
Little has changed since Maryland and Virginia Tech last met. Coach James Johnson’s bunch lost to Boston College at home, strung together a two-game winning streak at Georgia Tech in overtime and at home against Wake Forest by one point, then began its recent slide, and have blown double-digit leads in consecutive games. Like the Terps, they have a five-day break between games to prepare.
Virginia: The Cavaliers have been unbelievably stingy at home this season, earning wins over North Carolina (61-52), Florida State (56-36), Boston College (65-51) and North Carolina State (58-55) at John Paul Jones Arena thus far. This, of course, came after an enigmatic non-conference schedule featuring losses to Old Dominion, Delaware and George Mason. Virginia topped the Hokies by 16 points on Jan. 24 on the road, but lost to both Wake Forest and Clemson away from Charlottesville as well, making the Cavs one of the nation’s most interesting bubble cases through early February.
Virginia is among the nation’s top defensive teams, and have held opponents to under 50 points seven times, but all seven of those games were at home. Of course, they have two games remaining before visiting College Park (at Georgia Tech on Sunday and vs. Clemson on Thursday), so the script could easily change by this time next week.
WHO THEY’VE GOT
Virginia Tech: Erick Green. Seriously, that’s it. Green leads the nation in scoring with 25.5 points per game, shooting an absurd 49.8 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from beyond the arc, but gets little help from his supporting cast, save Jarell Eddie (14.4 points per game). In that 94-71 blowout against the Terps in early January, the ACC opener for both teams, Green dropped 28 points on 8 for 18 shooting and attempted 11 free throws. His teammates? Well, Eddie shot 2 for 12 from the field and the Hokies mustered just nine bench points. The game was over by halftime, when Jake Layman scored 18 of his career-high 20 points and Maryland shot out to a 16-point lead.
As colleague Mark Giannotto wrote, the Hokies couldn’t win when Green topped 30 points in consecutive games, and struggled to get over the hump when the dynamic senior was held scoreless for nearly 20 minutes Saturday against North Carolina.
Virginia: Unlike their state counterparts, the Cavaliers possess a slightly more balanced rotation. Joe Harris leads the way with 15.2 points per game (45.9 percent on 98 three-point attempts), though Akil Mitchell is shooting 54.3 percent from the field, averages 12.4 points per game and ranks third in the ACC with 9.0 rebounds per game. The Cavs also boast a freshman gunner in Evan Nolte (7.0 ppg, 43.1 percent field-goal percentage) and six others averaging at least three points per game. But it was a host of supporting cast members who helped take down the visiting Wolfpack. Jontel Evans hit two clutch free throws with 26 seconds left. Freshman Mike Tobey endeared the home crowd with 13 points and seven rebounds.
Virginia hangs its hat on defense, topping the conference in scoring defense (51.2 ppg), ranking second to Maryland in field-goal percentage defense (.368 against) and second in three-point defense (.297). The Cavs, wrote Giannotto – who’s just everywhere and is a must-follow this week because he somehow covers teams in Charlottesville and Blacksburg – secured stops on five straight possessions to end the game.
WHAT’S BEEN SAID
“Nothing works against him because he’s really, really good. Everybody had to be aware of him…We were lucky, too, because he missed some shots he normally makes.” – North Carolina Coach Roy Williams on Green.
“We’re touching on something very special. A lot of guys have brought into the system. Guys are playing their roles at a very high level and we’re doing it as a unit.”—Evans.