Coppin State (3-4) vs 23rd-ranked Maryland (5-0)
When: Friday, November 25. 4:00 PM
Where: Xfinity Center
Radio: 105.7 (Baltimore), 980 AM (DC); Johnny Holliday (pxp), Chris Knoche (analyst), Walt Williams (analyst)
After defeating Saint Louis and Miami (FL) to win the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off, Maryland basketball returns to action as they’ve traveled back home where they will host Coppin State for a Friday afternoon contest.
Overview: Coppin State
Led by former Maryland great Juan Dixon in his sixth year as head coach, Coppin State is just 45-112 to start his tenure. Coppin was predicted to finish second in the MEAC in the preseason predictions. After opening the season with losses at Charlotte and Georgetown, Coppin State rebounded against Mount St. Mary’s and Navy at home before falling by double-digits to Marshall and Towson. Friday afternoon’s contest will mark the first and only high major opponent for Dixon’s squad this season, while the Eagles pulled off the lone win in series history back in 1989.
Maryland will see one familiar face standing opposite of them when redshirt senior guard Sam Sessoms, a former Penn State guard, starts once against for Coppin State. Sessoms enters Friday averaging a team-high 22 points on 49.6% shooting and is joined by guard Nendah Tarke (12.9 ppg) and senior forward Justin Winton (10.1 ppg).
Three Things to Watch
Can Maryland Stay Hot from Three?
Maryland opened its season shooting 9-of-20 from three in a win over Niagara, but the next two games showed brief signs of concern after shooting a combined 6-of-39 from behind the arc. When playing tougher competition that simply is not going to help you win any games. Last weekend gave Maryland a chance to recalibrate their shooting stroke and thanks to Donta Scott, Don Carey and Noah Batchelor, Maryland did just that after shooting 22-53 (41.5%) from behind the arc which helped them come out the weekend winning both games by a combined margin of 46. Coppin State doesn’t pose the same concerns to Maryland on both ends of the floor as Willard’s commitment to defensive pressure and intensity could stifle an Eagles team averaging 14 turnovers per game. While the Terps have the matchup advantage in the paint against an undersized Coppin State squad, Maryland will have chances to eclipse the 33.8% three-point shooting that the Eagles allow as Willard looks to empty his bench.
Iron Out Rotation
Friday could prove to be the last time that Willard and the staff can truly figure out the rotation until the staff hosts Saint Peter’s on December 22. Following Friday’s game, Maryland will travel to Louisville for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, travel to Wisconsin, face Tennessee at the Barclays Center before hosting UCLA—all in a two-week span. Maryland will have another chance to take a breath before restarting conference play on New Year’s Day, but Friday’s game will give Willard a chance to dive into what an eight or nine-man rotation will look like.
Former Seton Hall guard Jahari Long has filled in nicely into his new role in College Park as he facilities the second unit’s offense, but he’s done so while leading the team with three assists per game. Ian Martinez opened the season with five steals in sixteen minutes before showing his improvements on the offensive end this weekend, finishing with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting in just 18 minutes against Saint Louis.
Arguably the biggest question mark has been the frontcourt rotation, but Patrick Emilien has helped alleviate concerns early on as he’s become one of four players to lead Maryland in rebounding through five games. Despite averaging just two points and 3.4 rebounds per game, his 1.2 blocks have helped an undersized squad buckle down in the paint. Ike Cornish and Noah Batchelor have been able to flash their perimeter touch as well, giving them a chance to provide a spark off the bench.
Head Coaching Matchup
This game is going to be an interesting matchup between Kevin Willard and Juan Dixon. While Willard was the one to end up getting hired as the Terps new head coach, many fans out there were hoping Dixon get a shot at it with his history around the program. While Dixon will be out looking to try and prove he should have had a shot at the job, Willard will be trying to keep energizing the Terps fan base and showing he was the right man for the job.
Coppin State averages nine steals a game but at the same time is a team that turns it over a lot with 14 turnovers a game. Willard and the Terps will look to use their fast-paced defense to cause lots of havoc and create plenty of turnovers while playing smart and not handing the ball over to Coppin. Coppin is also giving up an average of 83 points per game while the Terps are scoring just over 80 points per game so it will be interesting to see how Coppin tries to slow down the Terps hot offense.
“Obviously Juan is doing a great job with Coppin. The kids play hard they play a fun style of basketball,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said when talking about Dixon. “But I think anytime you can bring someone that’s, you know, hung the banner, come back and celebrate him I think is really important. He is a huge part of Maryland Basketball history. For his to coach in the building and coach against his alma mater is pretty cool.” Dixon won’t be the only alum on the sideline with former Maryland forward John Auslander, Coppin State’s associate head coach, also along the sideline.
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