Warriors chasing more Madness and history against Maryland in NCAA Second Round
SPOKANE, Wash. — In what essentially amounts to the most significant game in the history of the University of Hawai’i basketball program, the Warriors will take on Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Championship Tournament on Sunday.
Hawai’i, which is 28-5 and the No. 13 seed in the South Region, is playing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in history, following a 77-66 upset of No. 4 seed Cal on Friday for the first NCAA Tournament win in program history.
Maryland, which is 26-8 and the No. 5 seed, owns 40 NCAA Tournament victories in its history, including a National Championship in 2002, and a 79-74 win over No. 12 seed South Dakota State in a first round game on Friday. The Terrapins are ranked No. 18 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, and finished tied for third place in the Big Ten Conference.
Sunday’s game at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena is scheduled to start at 1:10 p.m. (Hawai’i time), and it will be televised nationally on TBS.
“Obviously, their balance is so good, but we just played against a very big Cal team and these guys are bigger, so we’ll have our hands full there,” Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot said. “But one of the reasons they’re so good and, obviously, why they’re advancing to this point after having such a good season, is just their balance.”
Much like Cal, Maryland is big and all five starters average double-figure points. Unlike Cal, Maryland is considered relatively healthy, and four of the players have started every game this season.
Melo Trimble, a 6-foot-3 sophomore point guard, is averaging 14.5 points, 5.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. He also leads the team with a .874 free throw percentage, and has 56 3-pointers. He is one of four Terrapins with at least 50 3-pointers this season (by comparison, Hawai’i only has one player with more than 50 3-pointers).
It makes for an intriguing matchup with Hawai’i point guard Roderick Bobbitt, a 6-3 senior who is averaging 13.4 points, 5.4 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game. He played all 40 minutes and finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the history win over Cal on Friday.
“We watched Hawai’i before we played (Friday),” Trimble said. “We saw how active on defense they were. They just play like they want to win. They wanted it more (on Friday), more than Cal wanted it. You could tell how hard they were playing on defense and the offensive side. They were executing their plays, and they were just having fun out there. And every team that has fun, they play really well.”
Bobbitt said of Maryland: “I would say they penetrate the ball a lot, try to get into the lane and create shots for others. So that’s one big thing that I took out of seeing the film of Maryland.”
There is also intrigue in the post, where Hawai’i junior Stefan Jankovic could create a difficult cover for the Maryland big men. The 6-11, 235-pound Jankovic leads the Warriors with 15.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, and is shooting 55.7 percent from the field.
Maryland’s two starting post players are 6-11, 255-pound freshman Diamond Stone and 6-9, 235-pound junior Robert Carter Jr. Stone is averaging 12.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, and is shooting 56.4 percent from the field. Carter is averaging 12.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, and is shooting 56.2 percent from the field.
Either Stone or Carter will have to defend Jankovic, and the other will likely be matched up against Mike Thomas, a 6-7 junior who is averaging 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game and is shooting 51.1 percent from the field.
Ganot said of the Terps: “When you have an inside-outside attack, you surround their size with shooting, and a dynamic point guard, you will have your hands full. Obviously, one of the more efficient offensive teams in the country. When I talk about their balance, they defend as well – defend and rebound. So it will be another tall task, a great challenge, a great opportunity for our program.”
Another interesting matchup could be on the wing, where Hawai’i has dynamic 6-5 junior Aaron Valdes and Maryland has 6-9 senior Jake Layman.
Valdes is averaging 14.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and is considered the Warriors’ most versatile defender. Layman is averaging 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, and leads the Terps with 57 3-pointers. He scored a game-high 27 points and shot 5 for 8 from 3-point range in Maryland’s first-round win over South Dakota State.
“I think Hawai’i was playing with nothing to lose (on Friday),” Layman said. “So they played harder, played with more intensity. So I think (Sunday) we can’t let them play harder than us. We need to play our style of game and play at our tempo.”
Hawai’i senior guard Quincy Smith led the upset effort against Cal, scoring a career-high 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and 7 for 8 on free throws. He is averaging 8.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
“I think they shoot the ball really good,” Smith said of Maryland. “They shoot a high percentage from 3, and they get to the line a lot, and they shoot good free throws, too.”
Smith could match up against Maryland senior Rasheed Sulaimon, a 6-4 senior who is averaging 11.0 points and 3.6 assists per game, and leads the team with a .440 percentage from 3-point range.
Both teams have a 3-point shooter and a big man ready in reserve. Maryland’s Jared Nickens is averaging 5.6 points per game as the first guard off the bench, and has made 51 3-pointers. Damonte Dodd, a 6-11 junior, is averaging 2.9 points and 2.8 rebounds per game as the first big off the bench for Maryland.
Hawai’i can counter with 6-6 senior Sai Tummala, who ranks second on the team with 43 3-pointers, and leads the team with a .402 percentage from 3-point range. Stefan Jovanovic, a 6-11 junior, is averaging 5.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game as the first big off the bench.
Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon noted that Hawai’i’s aggressive guard play is a concern.
“This is the kind of team that, especially early in the year, gave us fits,” Turgeon said. “Tough matchup for us, because their guard play and they’re able to stretch the floor with their big guys. As the year’s gone on, we have gotten better at guarding these teams. But with great guard play and able to stretch the ball the way Hawai’i does, it’s going to be a tough challenge for us defensively.”
Maryland averages 76.1 points per game, and is one of the most efficient shooting teams in the country. The Terps are shooting 48.9 percent overall from the field, 37.5 percent from 3-point range, and 76.5 percent from the free-throw line.
By comparison, Hawai’i is averaging 77.6 points per game, shooting 46.4 percent overall from the field, 32.5 percent from 3-point range, and 68.4 percent from the free-throw line.
Both teams were allowed to practice in the Spokane Arena on Saturday afternoon, and the practices were closed to the public.
The Hawai’i players said they are aware of the history already achieved, but there was no time to celebrate, or be satisfied with the accomplishment.
“Celebrate? I don’t know if we did too much,” Bobbitt said. “After the game we were pretty happy. But we know that we had to put that game behind us and focus on Maryland, who is a great team. And everybody on the island celebrated for us.”
Mike Thomas added: “Our families are here, so it’s good to spend time with them after the game and just reflect on it. But there’s a 24-hour rule that you got to follow and get rid of by 11 o’clock (Saturday) and get ready for (Sunday).”
CLICK HERE to view the official NCAA pregame press conference (note that the Hawai’i interviews start at around the 19:00 mark and end around 41:00; Maryland starts around the 1:05:00 mark)
NO 13 SEED HAWAI’I VS. NO. 5 SEED MARYLAND
What: NCAA Tournament Second Round
Where: Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, Spokane, Wash.
When: Sunday, March 20, 1:10 p.m. (Hawai’i time)
TV: Live on TBS (Oceanic channels 551 and 1551 in Hawai’i)
Internet video: Live streaming on www.ncaa.com/march-madness-live/watch
Radio: Live on ESPN 1420 AM
Internet audio: Live on www.espn1420am.com
(Photos courtesy Brandon Flores / www.brandonfloresphotography.com)
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