By: Eric Myers
Maryland’s front-court players call Purdue center Issac Haas “the dentist” because of his propensity to clear out space with his elbows, leaving opponents’ teeth vulnerable. On Friday night, Maryland will be tasked with not only guarding their teeth, but guarding one of the most imposing players in the country.
Listed at seven-foot-two and 290 pounds, Haas has averaged 13.8 points, five rebounds, and just over a block per game over the first eight games of the season. In his senior season, Haas has assumed the role as the man in the middle after sharing time with former Purdue standouts AJ Hammons and Caleb Swanigan, which presents the challenge of facing more double teams in the post.
“Haas has had a tremendous career and he’s gotten better every year, and he’s passing the ball better this year–he’s been doubled a few more times, he’s passing it better,” head coach Mark Turgeon said.
When Haas comes out of the game the Boilermakers send in their reserve big man, redshirt freshman Matt Haarms–who is seven-foot-three in his own right– and Purdue usually has the size advantage on the inside for the duration of the game. Haarms averages six points and over three blocks per game in approximately 18 minutes per contest.
Maryland could be better equipped to deal with Purdue’s size than in past years with the recent infusion of size on its roster. The Terrapins have seven-foot-one Michal Cekovsky and six-foot-nine Ivan Bender returning from last year, and have added six-foot-nine Sean Obi and six-foot-ten Bruno Fernando.
“You just rotate guys in and try to wear [their big men] down,” sophomore guard Kevin Huerter said. “Haas is so big and so strong, all game we’re going to try to front him, we’re going to try to get around him so he can’t catch in front of us.”
Accompanying the big man in the starting lineup are four players with the ability to make perimeter shots, as all four players are shooting above 37 percent from the three-point line.
Senior guards Dakota Mathias and P.J. Thompson are both shooting over 50 percent on three-point attempts. Their lethal shooting from the outside pressures opponents to decide if they can afford to double team the interior and leave the outside shooters open.
“What makes [Haas and Haarms] really good is that they have four really good guys around them,” Turgeon said. “Guys that can make shots, they’re shooting incredible from the three-point line, so they’re really hard to guard.”
The Terps’ Big Ten opener will present them with a chance to avenge a difficult home loss from a season ago.
In a game where Maryland led by as many as 12 in the second half before Purdue staged a comeback, Carsen Edwards made two free-throws to put the Boilermakers up 73-72 before Huerter’s last-second attempt bounced off the front of the rim.
“It was really disappointing, and I feel like it was [the] low point in our season,” Bender said. “But we have to bounce back, we have to play with a poise and just remember what happened last year and be ready.”