Not even three weeks ago, Indiana stared at a 10-point deficit, at home, to the basement-dwelling Northwestern Wildcats, with 10 minutes remaining. The epitaph on the team’s gravestone was starting to be written: “2019-20 INDIANA HOOSIERS: 11/05/2019 – 01/08/2020”.
Then, things changed. Thanks to a renewed commitment to defense and rebounding, a greater use of the bench as a motivator, and one of the most substantial home-court advantages in the Big Ten, IU came back to knock off the Wildcats to keep their season afloat. Those same themes have persisted since that (metaphorically) stormy Wednesday winter night in Bloomington, as IU has steadied the ship, winning four of five games and thrusting themselves into the upper half of the Big Ten. On Thursday night, the Hoosiers enjoyed their biggest win of the season, beating No. 11 Michigan State, 67-63.
On Sunday afternoon, the 17th-ranked Maryland Terrapins (15-4, 5-3 B1G), led by coach Mark Turgeon, come to Assembly Hall to try to find their 2nd consecutive road win. The Terrapins opened as the No. 7 team in the nation in the preseason AP Poll, have reached as high as #3, and have been ranked every week this season.
According to KenPom, Maryland rates as the No. 10 team in the country, with a 40th-ranked offense and, perhaps surprisingly, a 5th-ranked defense (all national ranks, out of 350 D1 teams). The Terrapins love getting to the foul line, as they take 22.7 free throws per game (#27 in the country). Indiana attempts more from the line, but a big difference is that Maryland makes 73.3%, while IU converts at just a 67.7% clip.
IU leads the all-time series against Maryland, 8-7, and the Hoosiers have also won all three home tilts against the Terps since they joined the conference in 2014-15. Maryland has one victory all-time in Assembly Hall, which came Dec. 1, 2009, in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
How to Watch
|Who||Maryland Terrapins at Indiana Hoosiers|
|When||Sunday, January 26, 2020 1:00 p.m. ET|
|Where||Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana|
|Tickets||Find the Lowest Ticket Prices on SeatGeek|
|Watch||CBS (Kevin Harlan, Jim Spanarkel)|
|Listen||IU Radio Network|
Getting to Know the Terrapins
In some ways, Michigan State’s NBA comparison was the Cleveland Cavaliers of the 2000s, with one ball-dominant player in Cassius Winston surrounded by complementary pieces. On the other hand, Maryland’s comparison is more like the mid-’90s Seattle SuperSonics, who had two players handle most of the offensive responsibility in Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. Playing the role of Payton and Kemp for Maryland are point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and forward Jalen Smith.
Cowan, a senior point guard from Bowie, MD, has played nearly 4,000 career minutes and has started every one of the 118 games in which he has played. He tallied a cool 13 points, six rebounds, and six assists in the Maryland’s 16-point win over the Hoosiers in College Park. However, Cowan’s numbers have dipped somewhat this season. For example, his 37.3% field-goal percentage is 2nd-lowest in the Big Ten for players who take at least 9 attempts per game, with teammate Aaron Wiggins (36.5%) “leading” the way. One positive for Cowan is his ability to stay out of foul trouble. He averages 36.5 MPG in Big Ten play, but only 1.6 fouls per game.
Smith, a 6’10” “stretch-four”, turned down a chance at the NBA last offseason and returned to Maryland to improve his draft stock. He averages 14.4 PPG, 9.5 RPG, and 2.2 BPG. He also knocks down 39.5% of his threes (17-for-43) and 74.7% of his free throws (71-for-95). Expect IU to shadow Cowan with Rob Phinisee all day, and a combination of Joey Brunk and Trayce Jackson-Davis to defend Smith.
The rest of the Maryland minutes are essentially spread out among four other players– the aforementioned Wiggins, guards Eric Ayala and Darryl Morsell, as well as forward Donta Scott. Currently, Ayala comes off the bench as a reserve. All four players average at least 23 minutes per game.
Both Wiggins and Ayala, who shot over 40% from three last season, have seen their marks drop to an eye-opening 32.7% and 23.5%, respectively. IU’s packline defense does coax opponents into shooting 3s, so either those two, along with Cowan, hit a few that they’re due to make, or see their season-long slump continue. Morsell, a top-60 recruit and a junior, does a little bit of everything for Turgeon. He does have a tendency to give away possession of the ball for someone who doesn’t get it much in the first place. Scott, a freshman, has plenty of talent, but he’s a year or two away from being an impact player. He did score a career-high 13 against Purdue last week, but, like many, he struggles on the road, averaging just 3.4 PPG.
For a more detailed breakdown of the Maryland role players, see our preview from the first contest a few weeks ago.
Projected Starting Lineups
|Indiana Hoosiers||Maryland Terrapins|
|G: #10 Rob Phinisee||G: #1 Anthony Cowan Jr.|
|G: #1 Al Durham||G: #5 Eric Ayala|
|F: #3 Justin Smith||G: #11 Darryl Morsell|
|F: #4 Trayce Jackson-Davis||F: #24 Donta Scott|
|C: #50 Joey Brunk||F: #25 Jalen Smith|
What to Watch For
1. Carryover from Thursday’s big win over MSU
Indiana’s Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall is arguably the most intimidating arena in all of college basketball, and the crowd played a major role in IU’s four-point win over MSU. It should be hostile once again on Sunday as #17 Maryland pays a visit, as long as Indiana keeps giving the fans reason to stand and cheer throughout.
Against MSU, the Hoosiers opened on an 18-4 run, Trayce Jackson-Davis dove for a loose ball, Al Durham hit a big three before halftime, and Armaan Franklin and Race Thompson provided a spark off the bench. Will the IU team and Hoosier Nation continue to feed off each other on Sunday?
The alternative could also take place. Maryland, a highly-talented team with an extra couple days off, comes into Bloomington, jumps out to a big lead, and takes the wind out of Assembly Hall’s sails. Indiana, after a big win versus a top-15 squad, is unable to match the intensity they brought against the Spartans. Which path will IU go down on Sunday?
2. Fouls, taking free throws, and making free throws
A Big Ten game involving 50+ free throws might not sounds like the most appealing competition in the world, but frequently getting to the line on Sunday is Indiana’s biggest key to victory. Maryland has a six-man rotation; it goes without saying that any foul trouble would significantly handcuff Mark Turgeon. This season, the Terps are one of the best teams in the country at limiting fouls, committing just 14.8 per game.
On the other hand, Indiana’s bread and butter this season has been feeding the post, and either scoring inside or drawing two shots. IU is second in the nation in free throws attempted per game, at 25.7 FTA/G. For those curious how the number translates into conference play, IU still has considerably the highest FTA/FGA rate in the Big Ten, with OSU 2nd and Maryland 3rd.
A key turning point in this game will be whether Maryland’s defense, who has given up an average of just 9.7 FTA/G in the last three contests, can keep Indiana off the line. On the other side of the court, the Terps, who take an impressive 22.8 attempts per game on their own, could have an easier time getting to the stripe against an Indiana team that does like 18 per game.
The last aspect is actually knocking down the attempts. After a frustrating night against Sparty, in which IU made just 11-of-20 free throws, the Hoosiers will look to bounce back at home. Maryland is dangerous in this area, though, making 73.3% of their takes when at the line.
3. Breaking news: turnovers matter
All season, Maryland has done a poor job of protecting the orange. In conference play, they have turned it over on 19.7% of their possessions, good for last in the league. When they’re on defense though, their athleticism and active hands force a lot of missteps by opponents. In conference play, Maryland forces a turnover on 18.6% of their possessions, good for 2nd (behind Purdue). IU, which has a tendency to commit silly turnovers at times, will have to be extra careful with the ball on Sunday.
Featured Photo: IndianaHQ