GAME NOTES: Two teams looking to halt losing streaks meet up at the Comcast Center on Wednesday, as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish battle the Maryland Terrapins in ACC action.
Mike Brey's Irish are 10-6 on the season and started their ACC era in impressive fashion with an upset of Duke (79-77). The team has found out the hard way that wins in the ACC aren't going to come easy however, with back-to- back losses to NC State (77-70) and Georgia Tech (74-69) since.
Mark Turgeon's Terrapins are in the midst of their last season in the ACC, as they will head to the Big Ten next year. Like Notre Dame, Maryland opened league play with a win, topping Georgia Tech (77-61). The team has failed to add to the conference win total however, with a pair of lopsided road losses at Pittsburgh (79-59) and most recently at Florida State (85-61).
The Irish hold a 10-9 series advantage over the Terrapins, with the last three meetings taking place in the BB&T Classic in Washington, D.C. This is Notre Dame's first trip to College Park since 1986.
Losing a player of Jerian Grant's caliber is not something most teams can bounce back from. The Irish are left with trying to do just that, as Grant and his hefty 19.0 ppg are lost for the season due to his being dismissed from the team for academic reasons a couple of weeks ago. Notre Dame was obviously a much more potent squad with Grant in the lineup, as the team nets 78.7 ppg. The players now charged with assuaging the loss and continuing the team's offensive success include center Garrick Sherman (14.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg), guard Eric Atkins (14.0 ppg, 4.9 apg) and swingman Pat Connaughton (13.3 ppg), who serves as the team's top long-range shooter (40 3-pointers at a .421 clip).
Four players scored in double figures in the loss to Georgia Tech last time out, but overall Notre Dame shot a modest 40 percent from the floor. Atkins finished with 20 points in the setback. Both Sherman (13 pts, 12 rebs) and Connaughton (10 pts, 10 rebs) recorded double-doubles, while Austin Burgett chipped in with 11 points off the bench.
The Terrapins are coming off a pair of disappointing outings, including getting routed by the Seminoles on Sunday in Tallahassee. Maryland's perimeter defense was taken to task, as FSU hit a season-high 16 3-pointers in the game. Meanwhile, Maryland was an ugly 3-of-18 from behind the arc. Dez Wells led the way offensively for the Terps, posting 15 points, powered by a 9-of-10 showing from the free-throw line. Nick Faust added 14 points in support, while Jake Layman chimed in with 11. Maryland converted just 17 field goals in the game and shot just .333 from the floor overall.
Maryland isn't on offensive juggernaut by any stretch, with modest numbers of 72.8 ppg on .439 shooting. The team does attack the glass however, and boasts of a +6.0 rebounding margin. Despite the mediocre numbers, there is scoring depth, five players currently in double figures, led by Wells' 14.4 ppg. Layman is next in line at 12.9 ppg, followed by Evan Smotrycz and Faust at 12.2 and 10.4 ppg, respectively. Seth Allen has returned recently from an injury and rounds out the top scoring threats on the roster at an even 10.0 ppg.
Notre Dame is still in search of its first true road win of the season. The Irish may have to wait a little longer, as Maryland defends its homecourt well. Expect some gritty defensive play from the Terps in what should be a close affair.
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