Who: Maryland (11-8, 3-3 ACC) vs. Pittsburgh (17-2, 5-1 ACC)
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Where: Comcast Center
TV: ESPN2 (Carter Blackburn, play-by-play; Sean Farnham, analyst.)
DMV radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM, 980 AM.
Coaches: Terps — Mark Turgeon (Third season, 53-36). Panthers – Jamie Dixon (11th season, 279-88).
Kenpom rating: Maryland 67th, Pittsburgh 2nd.
Once again the Maryland men’s basketball team finds itself searching for the answers, wondering whether the latest trick will produce consistent results, or whether it will fizzle out after a brief moment of hope. The latest setback? An epic second-half collapse against North Carolina State, in which the Terrapins blew an 11-point lead, barely bothered to cover the one opposing player who could kill them in Ralston Turner and subsequently caused fan frustration to bubble over. The newest opportunity for redemption? A rematch against No. 20 Pittsburgh, shorthanded after losing Durand Johnson for the season with a torn ACL, at Comcast Center with a near-sellout crowd expected for the Saturday evening tip. The NCAA tournament remains a faraway possibility, bordering on lunacy to even think about, but home victories against top-20 teams can go a long way.
1) Have a chip? “It’s a cliché, but it’s a good one,” guard Dez Wells said. “It’s something you can’t teach. Chip on your shoulder, back against the wall, same thing. We definitely have to come out ready to compete. I just feel like we’ve come a long way since we played N.C. State.”
Perhaps. The Terps haven’t handled long breaks particularly well this season, but maybe memories of that 20-point blowout suffered three weeks ago at Petersen Events Center will help them make noise in the first half, rather than slogging out of the gate. Vengeance has been employed as a tactic in College Park this week, and why not? At its worst moments, Maryland has played without focus, without care and, some might argue, without any real energy. Two-thirds of the ACC schedule still remains and the Terps can easily salvage something out of this scrap heap of a season, but that starts with proving that they won’t roll over against a nationally ranked team in their own building.
2) Play with unselfishness? Oh, and the Terps have been selfish too. At least, that was the pervading sentiment during media availability on Friday afternoon. Too much hero ball, too many me-first mentalities, that sort of thing. Rather than band together at crucial moments, Maryland has splintered, not necessarily in the locker room, but certainly on the court as everyone wants to bring the team back from the depths. It’s not a terrible problem to have for Coach Mark Turgeon, so many players so desperate to succeed, but the Terps need to reel back their enthusiasm into something cohesive when it matters most.
3) Defend the three-point line? Just going to leave this bullet point exactly the same as from the North Carolina State game, and it probably applies to every Maryland game from here out. Three weeks ago at Pittsburgh, the Panthers used a 3-for-4, 17-point career game from Johnson to surge past the Terps in the second half. Pittsburgh doesn’t shoot a lot of three-pointers — its 70 attempts during ACC play are the conference’s fewest — but its 42.9 percent conversion rate ranks second in the league. Simply put, the Panthers can make teams pay if left open, which the Terps have all-to-willingly done against too many opponents this season.
2: Lamar Patterson’s rank on Ken Pomeroy’s national player of the year standings behind Creighton’s Doug McDermott.
18.8: Charles Mitchell’s offensive rebounding rate, which ranks fifth nationally. Baylor’s Rico Gathers leads the country at 22.0 percent, which is really just ridiculous.
6: ACC teams that rank among the nation’s 100 slowest, per KenPom.com. Pittsburgh ranks 281st. Maryland happens to be the second fastest, at 77th nationally.
“Yes, it takes a lot of maturity and just IQ to know okay, it’s going to be a good shot for us. And it takes alto of leadership for guys to step up and say that’s a bad shot. Yes. I don’t mind calling people out for bad shots. I always tell guys, if you think I’m taking a bad shot, say something. Communication sit he biggest thing within the team. If we communicate the way we do in practice, we’ll be fine.” – Wells.
“We have a lot of scorers. Sometimes guys have too much of that scorer’s mentality and when we get down, some guys try to do it themselves, I guess you could say. We have confidence in them to make the shots. It’s just taking the right shots. To me, I think if you really want to win, you’re not going to take those shots and you’re not going to be selfish.” – Jake Layman.
THE TERPS TUNE OF TODAY
“Pocketful of Sunshine” by Natasha Beddingfield.