Preview: Maryland Basketball Faces First True Road Test Against Louisville

After defeating Coppin State 95-79 on Friday afternoon, Maryland basketball was off on Saturday and returned to practice on Sunday in preparation for their ACC/Big Ten matchup. We take a look at the Louisville Cardinals as Maryland looks to move to 7-0.

Overview: Louisville

In year one under head coach Kenny Payne, not much has gone right for Louisville basketball to begin his tenure. After losing their first three games to Bellarmine, Wright State and Appalachian State all by one point, the Maui Invitational didn’t bode much more confidence after losing by 26 points to Arkansas, 32 points to Texas Tech then by 19 against Cincinnati. After six days off, Louisville will hope to turn it around with Maryland heading to the Yum! Center to give Louisville assistant Danny Manning a chance to see his former team once more. It’ll be the second consecutive season that the two teams have squared off with Louisville pulling off a 63-55 win in the Bahamas Championship.

The 38 points scored against Texas Tech were the fewest scored by a Louisville team in 50 years, Louisville’s 58.7 points per game also rank 344th in the country while its 90 turnovers to just 36 assists this season gives the Cardinals the worst assist-to-turnover ratio is the nation.

Three Things to Watch

Defense vs. El Ellis

Louisville senior guard El Ellis is the lone player to average double-figures, scoring 17.2 points per game on 39.4% shooting. After allowing Coppin State to shoot nearly 55% from the field, he’ll command the full attention of Maryland’s defense on Tuesday. “I think El Ellis is as good a guard as we’re gonna see all year,” Willard said on Sunday. “He has an unbelievable high workload. He gets everybody involved.”

Ellis has proved himself as the catalyst for a Louisville squad that’s struggled to find consistency, but the senior is one of two players averaging more than 30 minutes per game. Ellis is also the lone player with more than five made threes this season, while shooting just 69.6% from the line.

Frontcourt Rotation Healthy, but Expanded?

Meanwhile, Louisville’s frontcourt presents length with Jae’Lyn Withers, a 6-foot-9 forward, starting and Sydney Curry, Kamari Lands and JJ Traynor ironing out the rotation. While both Donta Scott and Julian Reese will be tested on the defensive end, Tuesday could bring more favorable matchups for freshman center Caelum Swanton-Rodger. The 6-foot-11 freshman has played sparsely through the opening six games, playing a total of 11 minutes and amassing two points and two rebounds.

“I think Cal’s developing nicely. I think it’s, you know, this is a big jump from the level he was playing at in high school and to now be playing at this level. He’s working hard. He’s got a great attitude. It’s just the speed of the game right now is just his biggest adjustment that he has to get to,” Willard added. “We’ve played some teams that haven’t had huge guys that had more pick and pop five men. So he’s come along nicely. I think he’s gonna develop into a really good player. It’s just he’s five games into his freshman year in the Big Ten level. It’s just gonna take him some.”

While Willard is “going to have confidence” in inserting the Canadian center when needed during conference play, Tuesday could draw his first notable opportunity to prove himself at this level.

Meanwhile, Maryland will have forward Patrick Emilien available after missing Friday’s contest with an ankle injury. “Pat practiced. He was full go today. Pat looked great. He’s at 100%.” 

First True Road Test Ahead of Tough Slate

While Maryland has surpassed preseason expectations through the first six games, one thing that Kevin Willard’s squad hasn’t proven is the ability to win on the road. While Tuesday’s matchup presents advantages on the floor for Maryland, it’ll be the first time that Maryland will play in a tough atmosphere as Willard will get a chance to watch how his team handles the potential added pressure.

That’ll prepare Maryland for the upcoming slate which begins with Illinois next Friday, then Wisconsin, Tennessee and UCLA.

“I think they really understand what’s ahead of ’em, our first true road game. Obviously, Louisville struggled a little bit, but Kenny [Payne] still has ’em playing hard and winning on the road is hard to do,” Willard said Sunday. “So we practiced good [Sunday], we practiced for a good three and a half hours. Guys were focused. They understand, you know, road game and then Big Ten play starts so their intensity was really good today and their focus was really good.”


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