Maryland basketball vs. Pittsburgh: Previewing the game


Things are looking up for Mark Turgeon and the Terrapins after their return from the Christmas break. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

THE INFO

Who: Maryland (10-5, 2-0 ACC) at Pittsburgh (13-1, 1-0 ACC)
When: Monday, 7 p.m.
Where: Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh.
TV: ESPNU
DMV radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM, 980 AM.
Coaches: Terps — Mark Turgeon (Third season, 52-33). Panthers – Jamie Dixon (11th season, 275-87).
Kenpom rating: Maryland 64th , Pittsburgh 7th.

THE SCRIPT

Given the way Boston College’s season has thus far combusted into a pit of flaming wreckage – seriously, who thought the Eagles would be 4-11 right now? – it’s perfectly fair to call Monday’s trip to Petersen Events Center the first true ACC road test for Maryland. Yes, the Terrapins have played just two true road games this season. In the first, they rolled over against Ohio State, in Coach Mark Turgeon’s words. In the second they turned the phrase in a more productive sense by rolling over Boston College. Now awaits Pittsburgh, owners of a classically Jamie Dixon soft non-conference schedule with a 13-1 record that has it ranked seventh nationally by Ken Pomeroy. And while the Terps have plenty of practice playing away from College Park – this season, they are 3-2 in neutral floor games and 1-1 on the road – the Panthers are equally stout at home, undefeated in nine games there. With a victory, Maryland could move to 3-0 in conference play for the first time since 2001-02, while Pittsburgh could continue to validate itself against legitimate ACC competition after exiting December with little more than a win over Stanford and a loss to Cincinnati, both at neutral sites.

THE QUESTIONS

1. Win on the boards? The Panthers possess one of the country’s best total rebounding profiles, ranking in the top 35 on both ends. Thing is, none of their players ranks in the top 100 in rebounding rates, but everyone does it well. Seven players of Dixon’s 10-man rotation grab at least three rebounds per game. Maryland, no rebounding slouch itself, has five. Charles Mitchell will get his rebounds. He always does. But the Terps need Shaq Cleare (2.4 rebounds per game) and Jon Graham (2.5) to mop up during their minutes. If Evan Smotrycz (6.9), Dez Wells (5.3) and Jake Layman (5.1) hold to their season averages, the Terps should be fine.

2. Handle the environment? Back to the rolling over. The crowd in Columbus wasn’t particularly rocking during the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, but LaQuinton Ross sent everyone into a frenzy within 10 minutes because Maryland didn’t bother defending him behind the three-point line. From there the game snowballed out of control, something Turgeon would seem perfectly content to avoid in Pittsburgh. For the Terps, this means being better than their 19-percent turnover rate, particularly when the Panthers barely give away the basketball themselves (15.5 percent).

“There will be times where we’ll really have to handle their pressure,” Turgeon said. “We’re talking about execution with toughness. If we do that, can battle on the boards with them.”

3. Play inside-out? It’s amazing what a little post production can do for the Terps. The first possession against Georgia Tech turned into a baby hook from Cleare, and from there, it seemed to pave the road for Maryland’s success. Getting post touches – whether kicked out by Graham or predictably converted into a hook shot without reservation from Mitchell – opened up space for shooters sliding to holes when their defenders double down. Currently the Terps are making 37.6 percent of their three-point attempts this season, the third-best mark of Turgeon’s career and best since 2006.

THE STATS

6: Turnovers committed against Georgia Tech, an all-time low for Maryland under Turgeon.

19.78: Pittsburgh’s average margin of victory in nine home games this season.

296: Pittsburgh’s non-conference strength of schedule.

THE LINKS

Logistical challenges on two-game swings for Terps

Depth will be tested against Pittsburgh

Pregame notes: Faust, Allen thriving together

Georgia Tech postgame: Faust provides consistency off the bench

Morning review: Post play improved vs. shorthanded Yellow Jackets

Terps women top Tar Heels on the road

THE QUOTES

“We’ve been on the road a lot. Even neutral court is the road. I know it’s not the same. This place is pretty special where we’re going. I heard it’s sold out, which is great. I’d like to think we’re going to be ready to handle it.” – Turgeon.

“I don’t think it’s going to be much of a challenge. We’ve done it already. It’s a quick turnaround but I think we’ll be fine. We’re so deep. Everyone’s playing like 15 or 20 minutes. It’s not like everybody’s playing 40 minutes. The minutes are spread out. We’ll be fine.” – Seth Allen.

THE TERPS TUNE OF TODAY

“Radar Love” by Golden Earring.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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