Maryland ready for clash of styles vs. Northwestern

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Wildcats favor outside, while Terps stay inside

Tuesday's ACC/Big Ten Challenge game will contrast the style of Northwestern, which spreads the perimeter with its Princeton offense, with that of Maryland, which prefers trench warfare, banging inside with five rotation players 6-foot-8 or taller.

After handling four overmatched foes at Comcast Center, however, Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon is more interested in seeing how his team reacts in front of an inhospitable crowd and against an undefeated team from a power conference.

Up next
Maryland at Northwestern
When » Tuesday, 9:15 p.m.
Where » Welsh-Ryan Arena,
Evanston, Ill.
TV » ESPN2

"We were honestly not a good road team last year," Turgeon said. "[This year] we defend better. It's pretty obvious. And we rebound better. That right there gives you a chance on the road."

The Terps have few positive experiences away from Comcast on which to draw. Maryland has lost 12 of its last 13 true road games, dating to February 2011. The exception was a 64-62 win last year at Clemson in which the Terps nearly blew a 14-point lead in the final eight minutes.

Inexperience has played a role in Maryland's failures. On Tuesday night, four Terps freshmen, all rotation players, will get their first taste of an unfavorable, raucous gym. With a capacity of 8,117, Welsh-Ryan Arena is by far the smallest in the Big Ten but still packs a high-volume punch.

"It's gonna be a test for us -- a bunch of young guys on their first road game of the season in a hostile environment," senior James Padgett said. "We just have to prepare well, be poised and take care of the ball."

Though playing at home, Northwestern (6-0) enters in a similar mindset. Its victories have come over a suspect group. The best was Saturday in the South Padre Island Invitational against previously undefeated Illinois State 72-69 in overtime.

The Wildcats have three of their top four scorers back -- senior Drew Crawford (13.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg), senior Reggie Hearn (13.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and sophomore Dave Sobolewski (10.2 ppg, 5.0 apg). They are joined by senior Jared Swopshire (12.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg), a graduated, immediately eligible transfer from Louisville.

All can shoot from the outside. The foursome are a combined 45-for-94 from beyond the arc (47.9 percent). Northwestern averages 22.5 shots from 3-point range per game, compared with 14.8 for Maryland. Turgeon likens Northwestern's offense to that run by Lafayette, which produced 15 3-pointers last Tuesday in an 83-74 Terps win at Comcast Center.

"It's a tough challenge for our team where we are right now," Turgeon said. "They have shooters all over the floor, and you saw us against Lafayette against great shooters. That game will help us Tuesday. It's just a hard game. It's a lot of stuff to throw at our guys. But we've played against this system a lot in the past."

Execution will be complicated by a packed arena, with fans welcoming their future Big Ten foes, as Maryland (4-1) shoots for an RPI boost.

"We're not executing on a high level. [But] we're sharing the ball pretty well," Turgeon said. "Hopefully overall we'll play with some maturity and poise."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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