Where: XFINITY Center, College Park, MD
When: 8:00 pm, Saturday, February 29, 2020
TV/Radio: ESPN/Spartan Sports Radio
Maryland 23-5 (13-4): #9 (Kenpom)
1 - Anthony Cowan (6’0” sr)
2 - Eric Ayala (6’5” so), Serrel Smith (6’4” so)
3 - Darryl Morsell (6’5” jr), Aaron Wiggins (6’6” so)
4 - Donta Scott (6’7” fr)
5 - Jalen Smith (6’10” so), Chol Marial (7’2” fr), Ricky Lindo (6’8” so)
To quote the Ramones: “Second verse, same as the first...”
Maryland is still a top-10 team on Kenpom. They are an excellent defensive team (#12 in Drtg), and a very solid offensive team (#24 in Ortg). They have a great set of wings in Morsell, Ayala, and Wiggins. All three can shoot, drive, and score; it’s just a very good position-group. Scott plays as the starting 4, and can shoot it pretty well, but Maryland will also go small with Ayala, Morsell, and Wiggins all on the court together plenty as we saw in the first match-up.
The real strengths of this Terps team are Cowan, who broke Spartan hearts in a cold-blooded clutch performance last time, and Smith, who was really solid in the first match-up. Cowan’s driving and drawing-fouls game is the key to Maryland’s entire offense - it sets up his three-point shooting, it draws help defenders, and it forces on-ball defenders into foul-trouble and tentative play.
Smith’s game has fully rounded into form, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Xavier Tillman cement his B1G DPOY case in this one. If Tillman can lock down Smith and score the ball like he did in the first match-up, then Maryland’s wings have to take on a much bigger scoring load, which is the way to get this Maryland team in trouble: get the ball out of the hands of Smith and Cowan.
In the first match-up, MSU had about 10 jumpers and lay-ups go in and out, which is to say that at least a third of MSU’s 32 missed shots were high quality looks. The first game’s box-score, then, appears to flatter Maryland’s defense upon further inspection. Of course MSU needs to hit those same good looks in this match-up to make the logic of this argument more compelling, but it stands nonetheless: MSU’s offense generates good looks almost every game, every year, and this game will undoubtedly be no different.
The issues MSU had in the first game were compounded by decidedly uneven defense on Cowan - Izzo put Watts on Cowan for basically the whole game and, while he did well for large stretches, Watts also conceded an early three-point make by not trailing hard enough, fouled Cowan on an early three-point shot, over-helped on a late corner three, (then missed an easy, crucial layup on the next possession), then had Cowan stick one in his eye on a bit of a dare shot (MSU needs to really close out to him like he’s a dead-eye shooter), then got cooked on one more hide-and-seek three-point dagger to close out the game. This is not to say the loss was Watts’ fault. It wasn’t. But he did get beat consistently by a cold-blooded Cowan. In this rematch, I would be surprised if Henry and Watts didn’t take turns on Cowan (Henry’s length should really be useful against him). Make Morsell, Ayala, Wiggins, and Scott beat us by taking guys off the dribble and making plays.
The biggest problem MSU had in the first match-up though, truth be told, was the inability of our wings to score the ball. Henry, Watts, Brown, and Ahrens combined for 19 points (8-16 from two-point range, 2-9 from three-point range, 3-6 from the line). That was not enough then, and it will not be enough today. Our wings are ready for revenge though, and I fully expect an outstanding performance from them as a position-group.
Cassius Winston is ready to reassert himself and we should see a much different Spartans team. Expect another step-up in the level of this team’s play, and expect a monumental win on the road.
MSU 74 UMD 71