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Louisville-Maryland preview: Cards seek tournament title in the Bahamas

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Let’s bring back a trophy.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 11 George Washington at Maryland Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Louisville Cardinals (4-1) vs. Maryland Terrapins (5-1)

Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship Title Game

Game Time: 10:00 a.m.

Location: Baha Mar Convention Center: Nassau, Bahamas

Television: CBS Sports Network

Announcers: Kevin Fitzgerald (play-by-play), Debbie Antonelli (analyst), and Sam Hyman (reporter)

Favorite: Maryland by 1

Officials: TBA

Series: Louisville leads, 5-2

Last Meeting: Maryland won 95-73 in the Maui Invitational quarterfinals on Nov. 20, 2000

Series History:

Probable Starting Lineups:

Maryland’s Season to Date:

Statistics:

Relevant Videos:

About Maryland:

A much-anticipated campaign began with a preseason ranking of No. 21 for Mark Turgeon’s Maryland Terrapins. The Terps won their first three games without much issue, but were handed a surprising 71-66 loss by George Mason on Nov. 17. They’ve bounced back from that setback with a narrow win over Hofstra (69-67) and then a semifinal win over Richmond (86-80) in the Bahamas on Thanksgiving night.

Maryland’s primary strength is its dynamic backcourt, which is headlined by 6’5 senior Eric Ayala. The Delaware native has been a key contributor in all four of his collegiate seasons, but is stepping into a starring role in his swan song. Ayala has scored in double figures in every game this season, and enters Saturday coming off his best performance of the year. Ayala was terrific against Richmond, scoring 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting while also adding nine rebounds and five assists.

Joining Ayala in the backcourt is Rhode Island transfer Fatts Russell, who has been a high usage offensive player since the day he stepped foot on a college campus. Russell is a feast or famine talent who’s still adjusting to life as something other than an undisputed primary scorer, but he’s fully capable of going nuts and dropping 35 on any given night. He also might go 0-for-11 from three. Regardless, he’s not going to stop shooting, and he’s also going to be solid when it comes to creating opportunities for his teammates.

Inside, Georgetown transfer Qudus Wahab has been about everything Maryland fans were hoping he would be. Wahab is averaging 11.7 points and 7.7 rebounds, and while he’s selective with his field goal attempts, he’s very adept at getting opposing big men into foul trouble, something Malik Williams and company must be cognizant of. Forwards Donta Scott and talented freshman Julian Reese are also legitimate double-double threats every time they suit up.

This will be an even stiffer test for Louisville’s rebounding ability (and effort) than Thursday night was. The Terps rarely allow second chances (No. 10 in defensive rebounding percentage), and are 88th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. They’re an extremely streaky outside shooting team (following the leads of Ayala and Russell), but are much more consistent inside the arc. That’s a product of both their guard’s ability to kill teams with straight line drives and a deep and large frontcourt that is very good at finishing around the rim.

Defensively, Maryland doesn’t force a ton of turnovers, but that’s also not they’re M.O. They want to either force bad shots from the outside, or let you drive into one of their rim protectors (36th in block percentage).

Like Louisville, this is a deep and talented team that’s loaded with newcomers. Also like Louisville, it’s a team that is still in the process of having things click and becoming a cohesive unit. Here’s hoping they don’t take the same step on Saturday that it appears the Cards took on Thursday.

Notable:

—A win on Saturday would give Louisville its 31st regular season tournament championship in program history.

—Maryland is looking to win its 33rd regular season tournament championship in program history.

—The Terrapins have participated in six tournaments since 2013-14, posting a 14-1 record and capturing five titles during that span. Maryland most recently won the Orlando Invitational in 2019-20.

—Louisville has a 55-7 record during the month of November over the last nine years, winning 35 of its last 40 games during that month.

—This is Louisville’s third all-time early season tournament in the Bahamas. The Cardinals have twice finished as the runner-up in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

—Maryland’s move from the ACC to the Big Ten in 2012 (effective in 2014-15), opened the door for Louisville to take the Terrapins’ place in the ACC.

—Noah Locke is one point away from reaching the 1,000-point mark for his college career.

—Maryland has won 45 straight games when scoring at least 80 points, with its last loss coming to North Carolina in 2015 (89-81).

—Jarrod West is second in the nation in career steals among active players with 264 career steals, including 10 in his first five games at Louisville

—Fredrick King, a U of L signee from the class of 2022, is a native of the Bahamas.

—Louisville is 10-7 against Big Ten opponents over the past 10 years. The Cardinals are about to face back-to-back Big Ten opponents (at Michigan State on Dec. 1) for the first time in program history.

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Louisville is a 1-point underdog in this game. It marks the second straight game and the second time this season that the Cardinals have not been favored.

—This 10 a.m. tip will be the earliest tip-off time for a Louisville game since a 9 a.m. tip vs. Stanford on Nov. 24, 2004, in Lahaina, Hawaii. That game aired at 2 p.m. in Louisville.

—Louisville is 6-1 all-time and has won five straight in games played on Nov. 27.

—This will be the final game of a six-game suspension for Louisville head coach Chris Mack. Assistant coach Mike Pegues is guiding the Cardinals in Mack’s absence. The win/loss total from these six games will go on his coaching record, not Mack’s.

—Louisville is 31-2 over the last three seasons when scoring at least 71 points, but one of those losses came earlier this season against Furman.

—Louisville is 14-0 over the past 10 seasons when limiting opponents to no more than one three-point field goal.

—Since 2004, Louisville is 128-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.

—Louisville has won 162 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.

—Louisville has won 155 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.

—Louisville is one of only five schools to be ranked in the AP Top 25 poll at least once during each of the last 18 seasons (others: Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, & North Carolina).

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Maryland 70, Louisville 69