March Comes Early As Dukes Host Eight-Ranked Maryland

March intensity comes to JMU Convocation Center in November, when preseason Big Ten Conference favorite Maryland visits Colonial Athletic Association front-runner James Madison. 

The road to the NCAA Tournament is long, with Selection Sunday four months away from this, just the second week of the season. Still, these are two teams that should be factors all the way to the Madness. 

The Dukes welcome a talented Terps bunch, coming off a tough loss Sunday to top 10-ranked South Carolina. James Madison improved to 2-0 thanks to a fourth-quarter rally Saturday against Villanova. 

James Madison will try to score a landmark win, carrying over the momentum from that 15-8 fourth-quarter comeback into perhaps the biggest home game of 2019-20. 

Who: No. 8 Maryland (1-1) at James Madison (2-0) 

Where: JMU Convocation Center; Harrisonburg, Virginia

When: Wednesday, Nov. 13, 7 p.m. ET 

Watch: LIVE on FloHoops

Maryland At A Glance

Sunday’s loss to South Carolina dropped Maryland in the AP Top 25, but a preseason No. 4 ranking speaks to the faith experts have in the Terps. Under coach Brenda Frese, it’s certainly justified. 

Maryland has been to three Final Fours under Frese, including in 2006 when it won the national championship. The Terps have never won fewer than 24 games in this decade, and an experienced roster in 2019-20 should continue that streak. 

Terps On Offense

Maryland routinely pushes tempo effectively and scores points in bunches. Last season, the Terps averaged 75 points per game to rank No. 34 in the nation; In 2016-17, they were the nation’s second-highest scorers. 

They opened 2019-20 with a 119-point deluge on Wagner, which makes Sunday’s 54 points against South Carolina all the more surprising. Maryland shot under 30 percent from the floor, a blueprint for slowing the Terps that the Dukes will try to replicate. 

That’s not easy, particularly given Maryland’s collective size. The team’s top scorers — Stephanie Jones, Kaila Charles and freshman Ashley Owusu — are all six-foot or taller. 

Terps On Defense

The same team size that makes slowing Maryland on offense difficult presents a unique challenge on the other end of the court. The Terps ranked No. 30 nationally in opponent field-goal percentage a season ago.

Frese’s signature 1-2-2 match-up zone forces opposing offenses further out from the basket to start their sets, then collapses on the interior to deny looks at the rim. 

Pushing opponents outward to take longer (and contested) jump shots presents plenty of opportunities for rebounds — and Maryland’s one of the best teams in the country on the glass. Last season, the Terps averaged just below 43 per game. 

James Madison At A Glance

With the most veteran starting lineup in the CAA, reigning regular-season champion James Madison was a runaway choice to again top the Colonial. The Dukes have the pieces to make 2019-20 a truly special campaign.

Kamiah Smalls is off to a hot start, averaging 23.5 points through James Madison’s first two games. Kayla Cooper-Williams will mix it up on the interior against the lengthy Terps. 

Dukes On Offense

Balance on offense has been a hallmark of this current James Madison lineup, with Smalls, Jackie Benitez and Lexie Barrier all averaging in double-figures scoring a season ago.

Smalls has kicked her production up through two games this season, but she’s not alone in this early going. Barrier’s put up 33 points in the first two, while Kiki Jefferson’s just outside of the double-digit range with 19 points.

Smalls and Barrier carried much of the workload against Villanova, scoring 22 and 20 points. Devon Merritt’s five were the next-most. The Dukes were without Benitez in that one. 

Dukes On Defense

James Madison was one of the nation’s very best defensive teams a season ago, holding opponents to just 51.6 points per game. The Dukes are off to a similar start to 2019-20, holding Longwood to 53 and Villanova to 52, with field-goal percentages of 32.8 and 30.4 percent.

Creating turnovers certainly helps, and the Dukes have 16 steals through their first two games. Smalls and Jefferson combine for nine of them.

With the perimeter players getting into passing lanes, Cooper-Williams has their back against opponents who get into the paint. She’s blocked seven shots in two games, coming off a 2018-19 in which she was the nation’s fifth-leading shot-blocker.

Add James Madison’s play on the glass – last season’s team was one of the very best in rebounding at 43.9 per game – and the Dukes give opponents very few clean looks at the basket.

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