After big opening night victories, seventh-ranked Maryland and senior-laden Rhode Island up the ante with a nonconference showdown Saturday in the Xfinity Center in College Park, Md.
The Rams (1-0) are coming off a 76-65 home win Tuesday against Northeast Conference favorite Long Island that saw Rhode Island place five players in double figures and take control early in the second half to pull away. Second-year coach David Cox's Rams believe they're ready to butt heads with bigger game on a bigger stage.
"It's good exposure for us, we're excited," URI senior Cyril Langevine told The Westerly Sun of the upcoming matchup at Maryland. "Put us up against anyone, we're ready for the competition. We're just going to go out there and play basketball."
The Terrapins (1-0) certainly provide that big opportunity. Coming off a 23-win campaign and fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in five seasons, Maryland returns four starters and looks ready to make a statement of its own this season. And on Tuesday, the Terps looked the part with a convincing 95-71 home victory over Holy Cross.
"We're an athletic team, we like to play fast, get out and try and wear teams down," said Maryland senior guard Anthony Cowan after he chipped in 12 points and five assists against the Crusaders. "That's what we did."
The Terps started slowly, though, trailing Holy Cross midway through the first half before an unlikely hero emerged off the bench. Senior Darryl Morsell, who came off the bench for just the 14th time in his 66-game career, came in and immediately ignited the squad with a steal and dunk, triggering an 8-0 run.
The Terrapins did a better job defensively -- Morsell's specialty -- after his entry, and the swingman finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists, flexing the muscles on Maryland's new-found depth. Four players, led by sophomore center Jalen Smith's 16 points and 11 rebounds, finished in double figures and two more added nine points.
The Rams had similar production in their opener. The team's top four returning scorers from last year -- Langevine, Fatts Russell, Jeff Dowtin and Tyrese Martin -- combined for 60 of Rhode Island's 76 points, and 6-7 freshman Jacob Toppin was the fifth player in double figures with 11. The 6-8 Langevine had 16 points and 15 rebounds, picking up where he left off a year ago. Junior Russell, an All-A-10 preseason selection along with Langevine and senior guard Dowtin, led the way with 18 points and a career-high seven assists.
Russell and Cowan will be a marquee matchup in this one, as will Langevine and Smith. Coach Mark Turgeon's Terrapins will force tempo, but Rhode Island's senior backcourt should be up to the challenge. Maryland may have an edge off the bench with an impressive freshman class that includes 6-7 Donta Scott, who had nine points on 4-of-6 shooting in his debut, and 6-9 twins Makhi and Makhel Mitchell, who have shored up the Terrapin front line alongside Smith.
This is the second of a five-game homestand to open the season for the Terrapins. They'll host Oakland on Nov. 16. Rhode Island, picked fourth in the A-10 preseason poll, hosts Alabama on Nov. 15, at the Thomas Ryan Center.
--Field Level Media