Coming off a tournament championship in the Cancun Challenge, Maryland faces Cleveland State on Saturday night in College Park.
Here are five things you need to know about the matchup.
1) Another tune-up (and avoiding the trap)
Maryland heads to Chapel Hill to face North Carolina on Tuesday. They have to play this game first, though. Just as Rasheed Sulaimon called Rider a “trap game” before the team headed off to Cancun, Cleveland State could function the same way.
You avoid a trap by staying focused and executing the game plan. Maryland should be able to do that on Saturday night.
2) Hitting their stride?
Up until Wednesday, Maryland looked like it had been driving with the parking brake on. They had to battle back from second-half deficits and squeaked out wins over Georgetown and Rider in the process. Finally, against Rhode Island, they looked like the nation’s No. 2 team.
The offense was running like a machine, they were getting out in transition, and they were defending like their length should make them capable of doing. That showed in the final score vs. the Rams.
3) Defense should take precedent again
Cleveland State struggles offensively. The Vikings rank 337th of 351 teams in the nation in offensive efficiency, scoring just 0.819 points per possession. Demonte Flannigan, the team’s leading scorer, averages 10.2 points per game.
This presents an opportunity for Maryland. With the length that they have, they should be able to force tough shots and turnovers. That can help to kickstart the offense like it did against Rhode Island.
4) More comfortable Melo
If you looked at statistics alone, you would think Melo Trimble has been coasting so far this season. He is, as it turns out, leading the team in both points (16.2) and assists (4.2) per game. The truth is, the game against Rhode Island was the first that he truly looked comfortable -- and that should be scary for defenses.
He was producing even when appearing tentative and a bit out of sorts. Now that he appears to be settling into a groove, everything is trending in the right direction.
5) Leaning on the bench?
Coach Mark Turgeon has said in the past that he has to have “guts enough” to put backup guard Jaylen Brantley into the game to take minutes pressure off of Trimble and Sulaimon. That hasn’t been easy, with Maryland having to battle back against some mid-majors.
Against Rhode Island, Turgeon finally had the opportunity and Brantley was solid. The junior college transfer did not score, but he had three assists with no turnovers. That’s a step in the right direction.
Even if he can give Maryland 10 turnover-free minutes per game, that will help the cause as Maryland adapts to life without Dion Wiley.