Rhode Island meets No. 7 Maryland from the XFINITY Center in College Park, Md. at 9pmET. The Rams opened up with a 76-65 win over LIU at home on Tuesday, while the Terps crushed Holy Cross, 95-71 on the same night.
Rams have tough challengeBeating Maryland would be a nice feather in the cap of head coach David Cox, who went 18-15 (9-9 A10) in his first season at the helm of Rhode Island. His team struggled early on but they did well to end the season, winning six of their last seven games. Getting five starters back doesn't hurt, led by 6-5 senior point guard Jeff Dowtin (15.3ppg, 47.5% FG) and senior forward Cyril Langevine (14.7ppg, 9.9rpg).
The Rams struggled to shoot in their opener against the Sharks of LIU-Brooklyn. Fatts Russell, a 5-10 junior guard, who averaged 14.2ppg last season, led the Rams with 18 points and seven assists in the opener on 6-of-12 shooting. Langevine added 16 points and 15 boards. The Rams had five players in double figures and outrebounded the Sharks by 16. But URI shot just 38.6% from the field and couldn't make this a blowout. LIU played just six players and was held to just 32.4% from the field.
The bench struggled some as Dana Tate went just 1-for-5 in 23 minutes and Mekhi Long went 0-for-4 in seven minutes of action. A bright spot was 6-7 freshman Jacob Toppin, who scored 11 points and grabbed seven boards off the bench.
"Sticks" Smith is the key to the Terps' successSophomore forward Jalen "Sticks" Smith (6-10, 225) came on Maryland's campus last season at about 190 pounds. That's fine if you are 6-1, but at 6-10, that's very thin. Hence the nickname "Sticks". Smith (11.7ppg, 6.8rpg) played alongside Bruno Fernando, who handled most of the physical paint play. For a thin player, he still managed a solid season, but really came alive in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 17 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks in two games.
Smith scored 16 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots in Maryland's opening win over Holy Cross. The Terps shot 48.7% from the field, but just 5-of-27 from beyond the arc. That's not a huge concern because their best two shooters-sophomores Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins-combined to shoot 1-for-12. Last season, Ayala made 40.6% of his three-point attempts. The 6-4, 205-pounder has moved to shooting guard, while senior Anthony Cowan (15.6ppg, 4.4apg) went back to point guard. Wiggins (8.3ppg, 41.3% 3pt) is expected to be the breakout candidate this season. he started and played 27 minutes against the Crusaders, while forward Darryl Morsell (15 points) moved to the bench, but still played 23 minutes.
The Terps do have some concerns at center replacing Fernando (13.6ppg, 10.6rpg). That player right now is Ricky Lindo Jr. (6-8, 220) but could be freshman Makhi Mitchell (6-9, 230), who also has a twin brother Makhel (6-10, 245) on the roster. Makhi had six points and three rebounds in eight minutes in the opener. Another big freshman Chol Marial (7-2, 230) could be available in about a month while nursing a leg injury. He has a 7-11 wingspan and is a legitimate rim protector at worse. So the Terps could be very deep when he becomes available.
Rhode Island is:
- 5-1 ATS last 6 after a SU win.
- 6-2 ATS last 8 overall.
- 1-4 ATS last 5 home games.
- 1-5-2 ATS last 8 vs. Atlantic 10.