Preview: Maryland Set for First Test vs. Saint Louis

Saint Louis (3-0) vs. Maryland (3-0)
When: Saturday, Nov. 19 | 1:00 p.m. ET
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena

Maryland took care of business to secure 20-point wins in each of its first three games to start the season, the first time Maryland has done so since the 2009-10 season that ended with an ACC championship. Now, head coach Kevin Willard and the Terps will face stiffer competition when they square off against Saint Louis in the first game of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament on Saturday. It’ll be the first matchup between the two teams since 1994, when Maryland won 74-66 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. With an undecided matchup looming next against either Miami (FL) or Providence, what will Maryland need to do in order to secure its fourth consecutive win? We take a look at Saturday afternoon’s matchup.

Overview: Saint Louis

After returning its core of six key contributors from last season’s squad that finished 23-12 overall, Saint Louis secured blowout wins after consecutive 23-point wins before beating Evansville by 18. After unofficially checking in at 30th in this week’s AP rankings thanks to 47 votes, then came Tuesday’s home game against Memphis where the Billikens shot nearly 50% from the floor in a 90-84 win.

Point of Optimism: Maryland’s Defense

Maryland’s showed signs of offensive rhythm through the first three games, but it’s been the defense that’s paved the Terps way to three consecutive blowout wins. While Maryland’s 50.7 points allowed per game is good enough for second in the Big Ten and tenth in the country, Maryland did so against a lower competition level and will face an efficient Billikens squad that’s averaging 88 points per game—good for 35th nationally. One season after breaking SLU’s single-game, single-season and career marks for assists, junior guard Yuri Collins begins the season leading the NCAA with 12 assists per game, while adding a team-high 22 points in the 90-84 win vs. Memphis. He won’t be alone as guard Gibson Jimerson sits fifth in the country with 4.33 made three-pointers per game and leading the team with 18.7 points. While Maryland is allowing opponents to shoot just 20% from beyond the arc, Jimerson’s quick shot should command full attention from the Terps’ defense. The length that Hakim Hart and Ian Martinez possess could become an asset on the defensive end as the Terps look to slow down a Saint Louis that’s struggled to take care of the basketball through the first four games, averaging two more turnovers than its opponents.

Point of Concern: Three-Point Shooting

After shooting 45% in the season-opening win versus Niagara, Maryland is just 6-of-39 from three over the last two games and it won’t get much easier on Saturday. While Maryland’s defense has been lockdown to start the season, the three-point shooting has been arguably the biggest concern as Willard noted corrections with his team’s shot selection. “They all can shoot the basketball and so we’re unfortunately settling every once in a while. When you have great shooters, they think they can make every shot and I think we’re settling a little bit for the first shot and I think that’s just a little bit of early season jitters,” he added. Donta Scott enters Saturday shooting a team-high 40% from three, but Jahmir Young and Don Carey have combined for just 3-of-19 from deep through the first three games. It’s been a welcomed sight to see freshman Noah Batchelor provide some scoring off the bench, but finding their rhythm from deep could help Maryland escape the weekend.

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