Ready or not, Big Ten basketball tips off for No. 21 Rutgers and Maryland on Monday in College Park, Md.
The Scarlet Knights (4-0) will play their first road game, going up against a Terrapins team still smarting from a 67-51 loss at Clemson on Wednesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Maryland (4-1) showed cracks in what was previously a solid start to the season.
“We weren’t ready to play,” Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon said. “We were out of it. We had a lot of guys not play well. We missed layups early. We missed free throws early and turned the ball over. We were about as selfish as any one of my teams had ever played, so we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The Terrapins shot 26.1 percent in the first half against the Tigers and trailed 38-15 at the break. Behind eight points from Donta Scott, giving him 11 for the game, Maryland cut a 25-point deficit down to 12 before Clemson pulled away again.
Rutgers is trending the opposite way after a 79-69 home win over Syracuse on Wednesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Scarlet Knights’ first victory over their former Big East Conference rival since 2003.
Four Rutgers players scored in double figures, led by Ron Harper Jr. with 26 points. Baltimore native Montez Mathis had 19, one point shy of his career high, as the junior geared up to head close to home for the conference opener.
Following a successful nonconference run, coach Steve Pikiell and the Scarlet Knights are turning their focus to the daunting road ahead.
“We’re going to play the fourth-toughest schedule in the country, I believe,” Pikiell said. “We play in the best league. We’re going to have multiple opportunities to play all kinds of good teams. It was a good win (against Syracuse), and we’re still figuring out our team a little bit early on. We’ve had to grind out games. …
“We’ll be ready to start the toughest league in the country, 20-game stretch.”
Rutgers and Maryland both turned in history-making seasons last year. The Terrapins claimed a share of the Big Ten regular-season title with a 14-6 conference mark while going 24-7 overall. The Scarlet Knights posted their first winning record in 14 years and won their most conference games in 17 years, going 20-11 overall and 11-9 in the Big Ten.
Since both programs joined the conference for the 2014-15 season, Maryland has won eight of the nine meetings and leads the all-time series 11-4. However, Rutgers won the last meeting last season in Piscataway, N.J., prevailing 78-67 behind 17 points from Jacob Young and 15 from Mathis.
Both programs pride themselves on defense. Maryland is allowing just 60.8 points per game, which ranks second in the league. Rutgers is yielding just 37.9 percent shooting from the field.
Myles Johnson anchors the Rutgers defense inside and Young is a lockdown defender on the perimeter. Darryl Morsell fills the latter role for the Terrapins.
–Field Level Media