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Men’s basketball sets to duel undefeated Maryland in College Park

No. 21 Terrapins off to fast start in first season as Big Ten program

<p>Junior forward Anthony Gill was named Barclays Center Classic MVP after averaging 14 points and eight rebounds in Virginia's four wins. </p>

Junior forward Anthony Gill was named Barclays Center Classic MVP after averaging 14 points and eight rebounds in Virginia's four wins. 

The Virginia men’s basketball team squares off against Maryland Wednesday night at Xfinity Center in College Park, Maryland as part of the 2014 ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The matchup pits former conference rivals yet to take a loss this year.

The No. 7 Cavaliers (7-0) are off to their best start since 2003, while the No. 21 Terrapins (7-0) already own wins against Arizona State and No. 20 Iowa State at the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Missouri.

Maryland will take the court for the fifth time in 10 days, while Virginia will play its fourth game since Nov. 25. The Terrapins downed VMI 95-77 Sunday night at home.

“We are taking tomorrow completely off, physically and mentally, because we need it,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said after the game. “We just want guys to get healthy and to prepare. My guys play with poise. They just keep figuring it out and hopefully they just continue to do that.”

The Terrapins lost senior wing Dez Wells to a fractured right wrist after the 72-63 win against Iowa State. Wells, the Terrapins’ leading scorer to that point, is expected to miss four weeks.

In his absence, Maryland star freshman point guard Melo Trimble has continued to shine. The Bishop O’Connell High product and 2014 Washington Post All-Metro Player of the Year scored 19 points on 6-6 shooting against VMI after dropping 24 while knocking down 13 of 14 free throws against Monmouth two nights earlier. The performances nudged Trimble ahead of Wells in the season scoring column at 16.6 points per game.

“He’s a winner, I keep saying it,” Turgeon said after the Monmouth game. “He knew we had to win. He knew he had to have the ball in his hands and he knew he had to be at the foul line so he went to get the ball every time. That’s what winners do. I was surprised he missed one because he’s that good.”

Senior forward Evan Smotrycz, who started 28 games for Maryland last season, returned from a broken left foot against Monmouth, grabbing a team-high six rebounds. But the former Michigan Wolverine played just eight minutes against VMI.

Junior forward Jake Layman, freshman guard Dion Wiley, redshirt senior guard Richaud Pack and freshman wing Jared Nickens all average at least 6.9 points per game for a Terrapins team shooting 49.3 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3 while holding its opponents to 35.1 percent shooting and 60.6 points per game.

Virginia, meanwhile, has also won games on the strength of balanced scoring and strong defense to start the year. The Cavaliers won the Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn, New York this Thanksgiving weekend, holding Rutgers to 26 points in Saturday night’s championship game. The Scarlet Knights’ point total was the lowest allowed by the Cavaliers in the shot-clock era.

“They have good players committed to playing good defense,” said Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan, formerly of the Washington Wizards and the New Jersey Nets. “That makes a good team. If you have players that are determined and willing to be good as a team, they will defend.”

Jordan compared Virginia to the early-2000s Nets teams headlined by Kenyon Martin, Jason Kidd, Kerry Kittles and Dikembe Mutombo.

“Those guys wanted to defend,” Jordan said. “[Like Virginia] they had good size at every position, good athletes at every position and they were good players.”

Junior guard Justin Anderson and junior forward Anthony Gill both made the Barclays Center Classic All-Tournament Team for their performances in Virginia’s wins against Norfolk State, Tennessee State, La Salle and Rutgers. Gill, who averaged 14 points and eight rebounds in those games, was named tournament MVP.

Anderson, for his part, leads the Cavaliers in scoring average at 15 points per game after a sophomore campaign spent sparking Virginia off the bench. The 2013-14 ACC Sixth Man of the Year is shooting a red-hot 59.3 percent from beyond the arc while pulling down 4.3 rebounds per game.

“I think my focus has changed,” Anderson said. “I think my body has changed. I think my confidence has changed. Once I start talking about it too much I get uncomfortable because I know my faith in God is going to see me through everything and my confidence will put me in the right situations. So I’m just going to try to continue to stay humble and try to defend and play as hard as I can for my team on every given night.”

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said fatigue played into the Rutgers game, and with both Virginia and Maryland in the thick of busy schedules, the ability to play through tiredness could also be a determining factor Wednesday night.

“We looked fatigued, and I told the guys that both teams are going to be fatigued,” Bennett said after the Rutgers game. “Everybody is going to face fatigue, mental and physical, but it’s how you respond.”

Tip-off against Maryland is set for 9:15 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2.