By: Eric Myers
In their first big game in college basketball, Maryland’s freshmen were playing in front of 17,950 fans, most of which were cheering them on. Still, head coach Mark Turgeon said they were nervous on that stage.
“That was the first time playing in like a full, full arena and it was very nerve-racking. I was pretty much nervous the whole game, still trying to shake it but it just didn’t go,” freshman forward Jalen Smith said. “But it was a learning experience because now I’m able to play in a big crowd and not have that have an effect on my game.”
On Thursday, those freshmen will face a new challenge. For Maryland’s young team, the trip to West Lafayette, Indiana, to play Purdue on Thursday night will be their first game outside the state of Maryland this year.
“We are playing five young guys in our top eight, so we’ll see how it goes Thursday night,” Turgeon said.
Turgeon believes that the team has been successful in aspects of the game that are conducive to winning on the road. Citing defense, rebounding, their inside presence with Jalen Smith and Bruno Fernando and the team’s ability to get to the free-throw line, Turgeon believes that those elements can help make road wins more likely with his young group.
Turnovers remain a concern for the team, as they average 14.1 miscues per game. Turgeon knows that the team can’t commit a high number of turnovers and expect to escape with a winning result, and he has relayed that message to his team.
“Turnovers are a big part of what we’ve got to do to prevent the other team from getting so much momentum and points,” freshman guard Aaron Wiggins said.
If Maryland does commit turnovers against Purdue, the Boilermakers offense, which ranks fourth in the Big Ten in scoring, will have opportunities for easy scores. That, in turn, will help energize Mackey Arena, a venue where the Terps have won just once since joining the Big Ten conference in 2014.
The challenges that the Purdue game will present extend from the environment to between the lines, mostly in the form of Carsen Edwards. Purdue’s junior guard leads the Big Ten in scoring with 24.4 points per game.
Last season against Maryland, Edwards scored 18 points and 17 points in the two matchups. This year, with other players such as Dakota Mathias and Isaac Haas no longer on the team, Edwards has become a bigger priority on the scouting report.
“I’m not sure there’s really any way to guard Carsen Edwards. He’s so fast, he can split ball screens… he’s got the ultimate green light and he can shoot from deep range,” Turgeon said. “Hopefully if Carsen gets 22 points, he does it on a lot of shoots. That’s going to be key.”
Led by Edwards and his fellow sharpshooter Ryan Cline, Purdue is a team that shoots a number of shots from beyond the arc. The Boilermakers shoot 30 3-pointers per game, which comprise just under half of their shot attempts per game. Purdue is not just taking those shots, they’re making them at a rate of over 11 per game.
“We’re going to have to be alert and get out and guard guys. And I know we’re going to give up some, but [Edwards and Cline] that are one and two on their team in field goal percentage from the three-point line, so we’ve got to be aware of that,” Turgeon said.