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Mountaineers face-off with border rival Maryland in the NCAA Third Round

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The fifth-seeded West Virginia University Men’s Basketball continue their journey to Indianapolis this evening in the Third Round of this year’s NCAA Tournament.  They’ll do so by reuniting acquaintances with long-time border rivals, the Maryland Terrapins, tonight at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. To get you set for tonight’s match-up, here is a quick preview of all the action:

Trends and Streaks:

WVU eliminated the twelve-seeded Buffalo Bulls from the dance Friday afternoon with a 68-62 victory. The Mountaineers are 6-4 in their last ten games, but are just 2-2 in their last four.

Maryland advanced to today’s contest with a hard-fought 65-62 victory over the No. 13 seed Valpariso Crusaders Friday in Columbus. The Terrapins are 9-1 over the course of their last ten contests.

Tournament Resumes:

West Virginia earned an at-large bid to this year’s tournament for the first time in three seasons. They compiled a regular season record of 23-9, and finished the campaign with an RPI of 24. The Mountaineers were 7-8 against teams with an RPI of 50 or better during the regular season, and had no losses this year against teams with an RPI lower than 100. West Virginia also had the 39th toughest schedule in the nation this season. This is program’s 26th appearance in the tournament, all-time.

The Terrapins also earned an at-large bid to this year’s tournament after compiling a 27-6 regular season record. Maryland did exceptionally well in their very first season in the Big Ten Conference, finishing with a mark of 14-4 in league play. UMD finished the regular season with an RPI of 12. They were 5-4 against teams with an RPI of 50 or better, and the worst loss they suffered this season came against No. 72 Illinois back on January 7th. Maryland also had the 55th toughest regular season schedule in the country. The Terps have returned to the tournament following a five-year hiatus. This is the program’s 25th appearance in the dance, all-time.

Devin Williams (#5) hopes to replicate his second round performance (17 points, nine rebounds) tonight against Maryland (photo via: All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks).

Devin Williams (#5) hopes to replicate his second round performance (17 points, nine rebounds) tonight against Maryland (photo via: All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks).

Series History:

Tonight’s game will mark the 38th all-time meeting between Maryland and West Virginia in Men’s Basketball. WVU leads the series 23-14. The Mountaineers took the last game between these two schools back on December 7th, 2003. That evening, Mountaineer guard Drew Schifino recorded a team-high 18 points, while sophomore guard Patrick Beilein went 3 for 5 from three-point territory as West Virginia stole a 78-77 overtime victory away from the Terps at the MCI Center in Washington, DC. West Virginia is 5-1 against Maryland in the last six meetings.

Team Leaders:

Senior guard Juwan Staten continues to lead the Mountaineers in scoring with an average of 14.5 points per game. Staten also leads the team in assists with 132 on the season so far. Sophomore forward Devin Williams leads the team in rebounding with 262.

Newcomers Jonathan Holton, Jaysean Paige, Jevon Carter, and Elijah Macon all lead the Mountaineers in several other key statistical categories including field goal percentage (Macon- 47.4%), three-point shooting percentage (Paige- 38.9%), foul shooting (Carter- 77.0%), blocks (Holton- 29), and steals (Carter- 61).

For the Terrapins, All-Big Ten Second Team selection Melo Trimble leads the squad in scoring with an average of 16.3 points per game. Trimble also leads the team in foul shooting (86.4%), steals (43), and assists (105). All-Big Ten First Team selection Dez Wells leads the team in three-point shooting with an average of 51.1% from beyond the arc.

UMD’s other statistical leaders include sophomore forward Damonte Dodd (61.0% FG and 47 blocked shots), and All-Big Ten Honorable Mention selection Jack Layman (201 rebounds).

Who to Watch:

For West Virginia, keep your eye on No. 5 Devin Williams. The 6’9” sophomore out of Cincinnati, Ohio has been able to produce offensively in recent games. He’s averaging 19 points per game over the course of his team’s previous three contests. Williams finished Friday’s game with a team-high 17 points, along with nine rebounds in the win. If he can continue his recent string of performances tonight, the Mountaineers should be in a good position to win and advance.

Highlighting the Maryland side of things will be No. 2 Melo Trimble. The 6’2” freshman out of Upper Marlboro, Maryland has been a consistent key to the Terps’ offensive attack all season long. During Maryland’s last five games, Trimble is averaging 16.8 points, and 4.4 rebounds per game. Trimble also does well shooting from three-point territory; he shot 52.4% from long range during his team’s last four games. If WVU leaves him open often, look for Trimble to bury a few treys this evening.

Maryland's Melo Trimble (#2) has been on fire from beyond the arc, shooting 52.4% from long range in his last four games (photo via: Getty Images/Jamie Squire)

Maryland’s Melo Trimble (#2) has been on fire from beyond the arc, shooting 52.4% from long range in his last four games (photo via: Getty Images/Jamie Squire)

Key of the Game

West Virginia had a better performance shooting the ball on Friday, finishing as a team with a field goal percentage above 45%. They also made some progress in limiting the turnovers to just twelve. However, one area in which they’ll need to succeed at this evening is that of the rebounding game. On Friday, Buffalo hung with West Virginia’s big men underneath the hoop as the Mountaineers finished the game with a slight 31-30 advantage. With the Terps averaging 35.1 boards a game this season, it won’t be easy to out-battle this team. However if they can, plus have another great game causing turnovers, the Mountaineers will have a great chance of proving victorious.

Tip-off of tonight’s game is slated for 8:40 PM. The game will be televised nationally on TNT.

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