Jordan Williams, Maryland Look for Signature Win in Rematch at No. 7 Villanova

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Jordan Williams, Maryland Look for Signature Win in Rematch at No. 7 Villanova
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Jordan Williams leads the Terps against Villanova on Saturday

Maryland’s Jordan Williams had a breakout game last year against Villanova, ranked third in the nation at the time.

Williams, playing in just the eighth game of his college career, scored 19 points with 12 rebounds—his first career double-double—in a tough nine-point loss for the Terps.

Williams will probably need to be even better than that if the Terps want to pull out a win in the rematch with the Wildcats in Philadelphia this Saturday.

There’s evidence to believe that he can be.

After his 13-point, 15-rebound performance in the Terps' 74-55 win over Wake Forest on Wednesday night, Williams has now recorded double-doubles in ten straight games.

Yes, that’s correct—he has now reached double figures in his streak of double-doubles. Is there a name for something like that? There probably should be.

Numbers aside, Williams has improved his defensive play in particular from his freshman to his sophomore season. He has vastly improved his defensive positioning, which leads to results that don’t necessarily show up in the box score. He is causing opponents to alter their plan of attack when they get into the lane, often resulting in contested shots or turnovers.

With Williams anchoring the interior, it has allowed the other Maryland defenders on the floor to feel more comfortable in guarding along the perimeter. This was evident last Sunday against Duke, who shot just 40 percent from the field and 29 percent from three-point range. To follow that solid defensive effort, the Terps held Wake Forest to just 32 percent from the field and 25 percent (3-of-12) on threes.

While a sound defensive presence will be crucial for Maryland’s chances against Villanova, they will need to do a much better job of keeping the Wildcats from pulling down offensive boards.

In their meeting last December, the Wildcats had 20 offensive rebounds. With so many second chance opportunities, the Wildcats gradually broke the Terps defense down in the second half, drawing fouls and getting open looks from outside. This was the difference in what was a close game most of the way.

On the offensive end, it will be up to the Terps’ guards to get the ball to Williams inside, which will not be an easy task. Villanova likes to pressure the ball-handler across halfcourt, leading to some turnovers and easy transition baskets. The Terps, who are still trying to find a true point guard, have shown some vulnerability handling the ball in pressure situations.

Since Villanova has already seen firsthand the damage that Jordan Williams can do, they will likely apply additional pressure, particularly when the Terps’ freshman guards—Terrell Stoglin and Pe’Shon Howard—touch the ball. They will need to overcome that pressure, and game pressure, in order for the Terps to leave Philadelphia with a win.

Williams will also need to run the floor for 32 to 35 minutes in what could be a very fast-paced game. He has shown he can get back on both sides in transition.

Perhaps most importantly, he will need to make some free throws. If he can match his 9-of-14 effort at the line against Wake Forest, Gary Williams should be happy.

Jordan Williams will be the best individual player on the court when Maryland and Villanova match up on Saturday. He will need to be excellent on both ends for the Terps to have a chance to steal a signature win for the season.

It would be a win that would go a long way not only for the team, but for the ACC as well. This is a league that desperately needs a big non-conference victory to improve its national perception come March.

 

Player and team statistics from ESPN, STATS LLC and UM Terps Athletics.

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