Exploring Maryland versus La Salle: Preview and Prediction

Tipoff: 7:00 Tuesday, December 22 at Xfinity Center

Discovering La Salle, Who are they?  

The Explorers are navigated by Head Coach Ashely Howard, who is entering his third season as La Salles head coach. If that name has Maryland fans searching their memory banks where they have heard it before, Ashely is the son of former Terp Maurice (Mo) Howard, who was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1976.  

Ashley Howard previously spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Villanova, helping the Wildcats to a pair of National Championships. He played a major role in recruiting, player development, and helping Villanova secure more NCAA wins than any other team in a four-year span, ever.  

Off course this season 

La Salle enters the game with a 3 – 5 record and lost (51-62) to a St. Peters team that Maryland defeated 90 – 57.  

Only two players have started all games so far this season in guards, Jack Clark and David Beatty. However, everyone on the La Salle roster registers minutes with ten players averaging over sixteen minutes per game. No player averages double digit scoring and starting guard Jack Clark leads the team in rebounding with seven per game.  

On Guard 

The Explorers are extremely guard heavy. Out of thirteen players on the team’s official roster, ten play guard. Jack Clark is listed as a 6’8 starting guard, and will be the wind in the sails of La Salle this game.

Expect to see a four guard system in which La Salle tries to heave the three in this game. They will not have the inside presence to control the game, nor will they have the size advantage at the guard position with the exception of Clark. Maryland has not been shooting well from range in the past three games, and this will be La Salles best shot to win.

Righting the ship for Maryland 

The last two games Maryland played were intended to be the litmus test against power five opponents. While the Terps showed defensive integrity, their offensive output was downright offensive.  

Before those matchup’s, Maryland shot over 45% from beyond the arc and Eric Ayala seemed to guide Maryland past their opponents with relative ease. In the back to back losses, Maryland has looked stagnant in its motion offense, lacked rhythm leading into their shot selections, and adjusted their offensive focus from Eric Ayala to Donta Scott.  

The team is still searching for its identify on offense, but their team defense gave an undefeated Rutgers team all it could handle. While Ron Harper Junior did score 27 points, and some would argue Rutgers didn’t shoot well that night, Maryland’s intensity on defense was seen throughout. Their length on the perimeter is measurable, but their desire to be good on defensive end puts them at a higher tier than predicted at the start of the season. They were good enough defensively in both losses and they should be given credit for their efforts.   

Morsell of hope   

Daryl Morsell enters this season as a team captain and his relentlessness competitive nature is seen every moment he is on the floor. He attacks the basket, locks down defenders, and never seems to shy away from confrontation. However, Maryland is a different team when he contributes on the offensive end.  

In his first three games of the season, in which Maryland won, Morsell shot 14 -of- 21 from the field . Yet he was a shell of himself going 5 -of- 27 in his next three where the team finish 1 – 2.

We have heard the stories of Morsell shooting until he needed to ice his wrists his freshman year. He has put the work in, the time for him to elevate his team is now. Morsell graduated from the classroom this past week and now he needs to graduate this roster to another level on offense. He has no problems getting to the rim, but loses control in the process and those missed baskets are resulting in turnovers for the Terps. Nobody blames him for wanting to win, but when he is under control, Maryland is a better team.

Bench Please

Marylands starters are struggling on the offensive end. There is no question about it. The pressure on the starters to score is daunting. Maryland needs to find scoring from the bench to allow the starters some much needed relief. They are about to embark on a Big 10 journey which is littered with tough opponents and attempting to discover their key bench players during the course of a game is not a path for success. These are the top three candidates that Maryland hopes to breakout offensively against La Salle.

Jairus Hamilton: Hamilton has been logging in starters minutes and has shown proficiency on the offensive end, but just like every other player not named Donta Scott, Hamilton has struggled to rise up.

Hakim Hart: Hart had his day against St. Peters. He was the man of the offseason in which coaches predicted this to be a breakout season for him. However, Hart has not showed the same offensive output against top tier competition. If he is not scoring points, his role will diminish. Hart should help Maryland beat La Salle, but he will need to pump in more points if he expects to see the court against ranked opponents.

Aquan Smart: Smart is the coveted freshman from Evanston, Illinois who has shown flashes of athletic excellence. His leaping ability is something out of a video game, but like Morsell, he needs to figure out a way to score more consistently near the rim. As the season goes on, Smart will need to play the way his name suggests.

Final Prediction:

This is a reset game with a chance to right the course for Maryland. The Explorers will find some success around the perimeter, but with no real offensive presence near the rim, La Salle has a limited chance to discover a path to victory.

Maryland should be able to transition in and out of its zone defense to prepare for the rough sea’s of the Big 10 schedule. After losing back to back games, Maryland will not look pas La Salle, and they should win convincingly.

Maryland wins 85 – 65.

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