December 12, 2014

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon acknowledges his team is still adjusting without a pair of seniors and playing lackluster opponents in its most recent games has perhaps made that process somewhat easier lately.

USC Upstate might have looked like another such team when the schedule came out but will attempt to knock off its second straight major conference opponent in Saturday's visit to the 19th-ranked Terrapins.

Maryland (9-1) is not expected to get leading scorer Dez Wells back from a broken bone in his right wrist for at least another two weeks, and Evan Smotrycz's status remains unclear because of an ailing ankle.

Smotrycz, a starting forward last season, played in two games after returning from a broken left foot.

Without those two players, the Terrapins couldn't keep up with then-No. 7 Virginia in a 76-65 defeat Dec. 3, but they have claimed wins over Winthrop and North Carolina Central in the past two games. Senior guard Richaud Pack continued to step up in his teammates' absence with a team-best 17 points in a 67-56 victory over NCCU on Wednesday, and Jake Layman contributed 15 on 6-of-9 shooting.

Pack, a transfer from North Carolina A&T, is averaging 16.5 points on 61.1 percent shooting in his last four games and has gone 6 of 13 from 3-point range. He averaged 4.7 points on 32.3 percent shooting and went 4 of 15 from beyond the arc in his first six games for Maryland.

"We are getting there and we are learning to play without our two seniors who we thought we would have this year," Turgeon said. "The guys are doing great and we have another challenge on Saturday where we will see if the guys can respond."

Maryland will next face a team that won at Georgia Tech 59-54 last Saturday. The Spartans (8-2) had their worst shooting performance in four seasons at 30.2 percent, but went 10 of 26 from behind the arc and continued to rely on one of the nation's stingiest defenses.

USC Upstate is allowing 55.2 points per game on 36.4 percent shooting and has limited opponents to averages of 50.3 points and 31.2 percent shooting on its current three-game win streak. The Spartans have also held those three teams to 16.7 percent shooting on 3-pointers and limited Georgia Tech to 3 of 21 from beyond the arc.

"It's hard to do what these kids did, but I've got a really good group of youngsters, probably as good a group as I've ever had," coach Eddie Payne said. "They try to do what you tell them and what you coach them to do and they did a very good job."

Leading scorer Ty Greene, averaging 16.4 points, had 16 points against Georgia Tech despite going 4 for 12. USC Upstate's other top scorer, senior guard Fred Miller (13.3 ppg) was held to a season-low five on 1-of-6 shooting.

The Spartans will face Maryland for the first time and take on their fourth AP Top 25 opponent in program history. They've lost the other three matchups by an average of 36.7 points, including an 82-58 defeat at No. 2 Ohio State in the most recent one Dec. 14, 2011.

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