(AP) — Virginia and Maryland used to team up with the rest of their conference in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but the Terrapins now find themselves on the other side of the divide.
The former conference opponents and border rivals meet Wednesday night at Maryland, and there’s more on the line than cross-conference supremacy as one of the teams’ records will suffer a first blemish.
While the No. 7 Cavaliers’ start comes as no real surprise a season after winning the ACC, the 21st-ranked Terrapins’ probably wasn’t as much of a given after a 17-15 ACC swan song.
The rivalry is certain to carry some steam from last season when Maryland ended its charter run in the ACC with a 75-69 overtime home win in its final regular-season game. It snapped the Cavaliers’ season-best 13-game winning streak and the Terrapins’ six-game losing streak in the series as they were one of six teams to crack 45.0 percent shooting against Virginia for the season.
That could be even more difficult to accomplish Wednesday.
Maryland is after its first 8-0 start since 2006-07 while Virginia last reached that mark in 2003-04, and both teams remained unbeaten over the weekend with very different styles.
The Cavaliers concluded the Barclays Center Classic with Saturday’s 45-26 championship game win over Rutgers, limiting it to eight second-half points, 25.0 percent shooting and an 0-for-13 mark from 3-point range.
“We said we (were) going to win with our defense,” coach Tony Bennett said. “We are going to play defense.”
He had nothing good to say about the offense after a season-worst 32.7 percent shooting effort. Anthony Gill still went 4 for 5 for 13 points on his way to tournament MVP honors, and the forward is averaging 15.0 points on 75.0 percent shooting in the last three games.
The offense will likely need to improve against the Terrapins, who went the other route with Sunday’s 95-77 home win over VMI, shooting a season-best 57.8 percent.
It was their second game without top returning scorer Dez Wells, who is expected to miss four weeks with a broken wrist.
Freshman guard Dion Wiley started his first game and had 19 points along with Melo Trimble and Jake Layman. Richaud Pack led the way with 22 on 10-of-14 shooting for easily his best game with Maryland since transferring from North Carolina A&T. Pack averaged 17.0 points a season ago and had been limited to three points on 0-for-13 shooting over the past three games.
“It was really good to get out of a slump. I’ve never had a slump. I probably had one bad shooting game, but never two in a row,” Pack said.
Such efforts have been incredibly difficult to duplicate against the Virginia backcourt of Justin Anderson and Malcolm Brogdon. They’ve helped the Cavaliers hold opponents to 43.6 points per game and 30.1 percent shooting, which rank among the best in the country.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon has confidence in his team adjusting to that lock-down style.
“My guys play with poise,” said Turgeon, whose squad beat then-No. 13 Iowa State 72-63 on Nov. 25 to give it consecutive wins against ranked opponents. “They just keep figuring it out and hopefully they just continue to do that.”
A season after Brogdon led Virginia with 12.7 points per game, Anderson has emerged as the top scorer with 15.0. He’s shooting 54.3 percent – 59.3 from 3-point range – though he’s yet to face a legitimate threat with each of Virginia’s opponents having at least two losses.
The Cavaliers went 3-4 against Top 25 teams a season ago.
Maryland is 10-5 and Virginia has gone 8-6 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.