Typically for Maryland basketball, Christmas day is a time to rest, regroup and celebrate the holidays ahead of a grueling January Big Ten slate. Unfortunately, a COVID-19 crisis coupled with a condensed schedule has left little room for festivities — but a win on Christmas could help the Terps provide some needed holiday spirit.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said junior guard Eric Ayala. “Christmas is probably a majority of people’s favorite holiday. It’s a gift-giving holiday and hopefully we can give to the Terps fans a well played game and we’d like to come away with a win.”
After just two days of rest, Maryland (5-2, 0-1 B1G) will be headed to Purdue (6-3, 1-1 B1G) looking to earn its first Big Ten victory. The last time these sides met, Maryland cruised to a seven-point victory behind a strong defensive performance and a Jalen Smith double-double.
Last season, the Boilermakers were notorious for their lackluster offensive displays and this year is no different. Currently, Purdue has committed 128 turnovers for the season — second in the Big Ten behind Illinois’ 129. The Boilermakers also sit at the bottom of the league in scoring, averaging 72.4 points per game.
This should be good news for the Terps, however, like Rutgers, Purdue features a front court oriented offense that Maryland has yet to prove it can handle. Junior forward Trevion Williams and seven-foot-four freshman Zach Edey, who average a combined 23 points per contest, will bring major matchup problems for the Terps.
“They play through [Edey] and Williams,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “They’re both good low post players, Williams is probably a better passer.”
Maryland will have to look to its front court defense to make any impact in Mackey Arena. With front court minutes split between Jairus Hamilton, Donta Scott, Galin Smith and Chol Marial, there are plenty of options to guard Williams. But Edey’s sizable presence demands an equally sizable defender. It’s likely Marial, the Terps best shot blocker and only seven footer, will be playing more minutes to match up with Edey.
“The reason [Edey] is able to play, especially around the basket is because he’s 285 pounds,” Turgeon said. “That’s a tough load near the basket.”
Offense is important too. Maryland has taken massive strides in shot selection, protecting the ball and have enjoyed some successful sequences on offense — essential improvements when facing a team as defensively capable as the Boilermakers.
But defense is Turgeon’s ideal brand of basketball. And the Terps have already shown their propensity to succeed on the defensive end — the challenge is to improve and sustain that success as competition improves. Forcing turnovers that translate into easy buckets allowed Maryland to hold on to an elusive lead to La Salle, and it will surely bring similar fortunes against Purdue. Maryland’s hopes of winning this game begin and end in the front court.
Tip off is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and the game will air on FS1.