Big Game Preview: #4 UVA faces #24 Maryland in ACC/B1G Challenge

ACC/Big Ten ChallengeQuick note about #24 Maryland: the Terrapins are good. At the least, they’re coming off their best performance in a couple of years, a 104-67 rout of Marshall last Friday.

And before you say, OK, Marshall, whatever – that’s a Marshall team that won 27 games, including one in the NCAA Tournament, last year, and features guard Jon Elmore, the third-leading scorer in program history.

Elmore, who UVA will see when the ‘Hoos host Marshall on New Year’s Eve, had been averaging 23 points per game before taking the floor at the Xfinity Center. He scored six against Maryland, on 2-of-14 shooting.

He was outplayed by Anthony Cowan Jr., a 6-foot, 170-pound junior who scored 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting to go along with six assists in the win.

Good guard play, and size inside, is what defines this Maryland team. Bruno Fernando, a 6’10”, 240-pound sophomore, and Jalen Smith, a 6’10”, 215-pound freshman, create matchup problems in the post.

Fernando is averaging 16.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in 2018-2019, shooting 77.4 percent from the floor. Smith averages 13.2 points and 7.5 rebounds, shooting 52.8 percent from the floor, and he thinks he has range out to the three-point line, though he’s only shooting 14.3 percent from long-range to this point in 2018-2019.

Five Terps average in double-figures in scoring, and coach Mark Turgeon will go eight deep.

The outside shooting threat comes from 6’5” freshman guard Eric Ayala, who is shooting 45 percent from three-point range, while scoring 8.7 points per game, and 6’6” freshman guard Aaron Wiggins, who is shooting 38.2 percent from three-point range while scoring 10.2 points a game.

Cowan averages a team-best 16.8 points and 4.7 assists per game, on a team-high 12.7 shot attempts per game.

How UVA matches up

It will be interesting to see how coach Tony Bennett approaches Maryland from a lineup perspective. Bennett started 5’9” freshman guard Kihei Clark in the win over Wisconsin in the Battle 4 Atlantis title game on Friday, and only used bigs Jack Salt and Mamadi Diakite for a total of 43 minutes, going four- and even five-guard for long stretches.

Expect to see more of Salt, Diakite and probably Jay Huff, for at least a few minutes, against the big lineup.

De’Andre Hunter, at 6’7”, and Braxton Key, at 6’8”, can match up fine with Smith, even giving up a couple of inches each, but Salt is going to be key in checking the thicker Fernando, so the redshirt senior is going to need to stay out of foul trouble.

One other thing: Homecourt advantage

Xfinity Center is an awful place for visitors. The seats surrounding the court go straight up from the floor to the heavens, making for a tough backdrop for shooters, and the sound collects on top of the court and has nowhere to go.

And there will be sound. Maryland fans are … vile. I mean that in a good way, I guess. They work blue, and they’re out two hours before the tip, and they don’t shut up until they’re on the bus on their way home.

If you ever have a chance to go to a game there, don’t, is what I’m saying here.

Preview by Chris Graham

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