Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times
Two undefeated teams will face off in Xfinity Center on Friday night.
It hasn’t always been pretty, but No. 6 Maryland men’s basketball has won its first four games of the season, winning by at least 18 points every time.
Last time out, the Terps used a strong defensive effort to stifle Fairfield’s scoring, winning 74-55 over the Stags on Tuesday night. Maryland got production in an unlikely place, as Ricky Lindo Jr. was a big catalyst for the team’s success with 13 points on 6-for-6 shooting from the floor.
Fairfield hung around with the Terps longer than expected, and now, Mark Turgeon’s team will turn to a tougher opponent. Maryland will host currently undefeated George Mason at the Xfinity Center, and one team will leave with its first defeat of the season.
“This is what everyone’s been waiting for. Hopefully our fans are excited for this game,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “It’s a Friday night for the students — we need them. We want them here. Everybody’s excited.”
Friday night’s game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. ET, and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
George Mason Patriots (5-0)
2018-19 record: 18-15 (11-7 Atlantic 10)
Head coach Dave Paulsen is now in his fifth season in charge of the Patriots, and he has them out to the best start in program history. The team is also coming off one of the best showings in school history, as George Mason broke a program record with 11 A-10 victories, and it won a game in the conference tournament game for the third straight year in 2018-19. Before coming to Fairfax, Virginia, Paulsen led Bucknell to a high level of success, winning Patriot League Coach of the Year on three separate occasions.
Players to know
Jordan Miller, sophomore guard, 6’6, 189 lbs, No. 11. Miller was in an intriguing scenario last season as a freshman with the Patriots. The team originally planned on redshirting him, but after a pair of injuries to a pair of starters, Miller was thrust into action. He responded with a 14-point debut against Rhode Island on Jan. 13, 2019, and from that point on, he was a starter for George Mason.
Miller finished his freshman season third on the team in scoring — 10.4 points per game — and the leader in rebounding, hauling in 7.1 boards per outing. So far this season, she has been the team’s leading scorer. He’s currently averaging 15.4 points per game on a stellar 52.8 percent shooting while adding 4.8 rebounds per contest.
Jamal Hartwell II, sophomore guard, 5’10, 155 lbs, No. 10. As a severely undersized freshman, Hartwell didn’t receive much playing time. He averaged just 11.1 minutes per game, scoring 3.2 points on 35.4 percent shooting from the field — 44.6 percent from beyond the arc.
But as a sophomore, Hartwell has been a complete workhorse. He is currently playing an obscene 37 minutes per game, which ranks second in the conference and within the top-30 in the nation (somehow). Hartwell has turned those minutes into 13.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest, and he’s the Patriots’ second-leading facilitator with 12 assists on the season.
Javon Greene, junior guard, 6’2, 190 lbs, No. 23. After playing a key role off the bench as a freshman, Greene graduated to full-time starter a year ago for the Patriots. He posted averages of 9.4 points and 4.9 rebounds as a sophomore, but he’s blown those numbers out of the water so far in his junior season. Greene is currently scoring 13 points per game while adding 7.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.4 steals.
AJ Wilson, redshirt junior forward, 6’7, 210 lbs, No. 12. Now in his fourth year with the program, Wilson is finally in a full-time role for the Patriots. After redshirting in ‘16-’17, Wilson came off the bench as a redshirt freshman and redshirt sophomore. Entering this season, his career averages stood at 11.2 minutes, 3.7 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
Now as a starter averaging 27.4 minutes per game, Wilson has broken out in a big way. So far this season, he’s scoring 11 points per outing while adding a team-leading 8.8 boards, which ranks eighth in the Atlantic 10.
Defense. The Patriots don’t turn teams over often — they force just 12.2 turnovers per game, second-worst in the A-10 — but they’ve been terrific defensively nonetheless. Opponents are shooting just 39.5 percent from the field and 24.6 percent from deep against George Mason, both of which rank third-best in the conference — the latter also ranks 28th nationally. George Mason blocks six shots per game, which ranks second in the Atlantic 10 and tied for 22nd in the country.
“We’ve played some good teams — I thought Fairfield was great defensively the other night — but [George Mason] will be the best defensive team we’ve played against,” Turgeon said.
Shooting. The Patriots haven’t needed to score often this year thanks to their defense, but the offense has left some to be desired thus far. George Mason is shooting 42.7 percent from the field through five games, which ranks eighth out of 14 teams in the conference. The team is also making just 32.4 percent of its three-point attempts, which ranks 10th in the A-10 and 191st in the country.
Three things to watch
1. Can the Terps get it going from beyond the arc? It’s not like Maryland is running into stout defenses. The Terps have had a ton of “wide-open shots,” according to Turgeon, leaving their shooting struggles a bit of a question mark. The most likely explanation is that the sample is just too small, but a 29 percent clip from beyond the arc — which ranks tied for 271st in the nation — is troublesome nonetheless.
Aaron Wiggins has suffered the most, making just five of his 23 attempts for a 21.7 percentage from three-point territory. Wiggins made 41.3 percent of his threes a year ago, so he should get it going sooner rather than later with more attempts.
2. Will Ricky Lindo Jr. see a large role again? After averaging just 10.3 minutes, 3.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game in Maryland’s first three contests, Lindo exploded for a huge performance against Fairfield on Tuesday night.
He came off the bench but started the second half, and he finished with 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting with seven rebounds across 21 minutes. The Terps have cycled in multiple guys in the main rotation thus far, and that could continue even after his standout performance.
“We’re still just trying to find the right lineup,” senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. said. “Coach has handled that very well. We know whatever lineup he puts out there is going to be successful.”
3. Can Maryland keep track of all the Patriots’ options? George Mason has four starters scoring in double-figures on the year, and that doesn’t include sixth man Xavier Johnson, who is averaging 9.6 points on 53.3 percent shooting off the bench. Maryland’s defense has held strong recently, but with George Mason having five legitimate offensive threats, it could be hard to keep the Patriots off the scoreboard.
“They’ve got a lot of athletes, a lot of really good shooters, they got good guard play” sophomore guard Aaron Wiggins said. “We worked on everything we saw in scout, and we just got to make sure we transfer that over to the game.”
Vegas: Maryland -17.5, O/U 136
ESPN BPI: Maryland 89.1% chance to win
KenPom: Maryland 76, George Mason 59 (Maryland 94% chance to win)
Me: Maryland 78, George Mason 63