College basketball analysts for years have said that certain teams with a lot of size look better walking through an airport terminal or coming through a hotel lobby than they do once they hit the court.
The late Al McGuire used to say that certain players looked “all-lobby.”
Pittsburgh, which plays at Maryland on Tuesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, might look intimidating to some. No member of its starting lineup is listed under 6 feet 6 and its frontcourt looks like it can compete in the weight room with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“You think we looked small versus Towson think about tomorrow night against this group,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said before practice Monday at Xfinity Center.
That's not to say that the Terps, whose starting lineup looked undersized against the majority of the teams they played during their 7-0 start, are worried about the size differential.
Freshman guard Anthony Cowan, at barely 6-0 and 170 pounds on a high-carb day, is looking forward to the matchup, which could include him guarding 6-7, 215-pound senior point guard Jamel Artis.
Cowan smiled at the prospect of trying to slow down the Baltimore native who is averaging 19.3 points, even though Artis often uses his height to post up smaller guards or his strength to drive on them to the basket.
“Whenever I see a taller player, I prefer it actually,” Cowan said. “I like to bring on the challenge. Whenever I see a taller player, I just make sure there’s no backing down or anything and I’m going to show him I’m going at it myself.”
During his career at St. John’s College High in Washington, Cowan often found himself looking up at the competition.
Two of his more celebrated matchups included going up against 6-4, 180-pound Markelle Fultz of DeMatha, now a freshman at the University of Washington who is projected to be one of the top picks in the 2017 NBA Draft, and 6-7, 180-pound V.J. King of Paul VI, now a freshman at Louisville.
“That doesn’t really faze me,” Cowan said.
Terps freshman Kevin Huerter, who often draws the opposing team’s top perimeter scorer, had an interesting matchup Saturday against Kansas State in the Barclays Center Classic championship. The 6-7, 190-pound wing guarded senior Wesley Iwandu.
Though Iwundu scored 16 points and had a career-high 11 rebounds, Huerter did a good job keeping the 6-7, 205-pound forward off the offensive boards. Iwundu didn’t have a single offensive rebound, while half of Huerter’s six rebounds came on the offensive glass.
Huerter, who had a team- and season-high 10 rebounds in the first game in Brooklyn, N.Y., a win over Richmond, said Turgeon’s message before the Kansas State game was spelled out in one word on the whiteboard in the locker room: TOUGHNESS.
“A big word that the coaches have been stressing this year is toughness,” Huerter said. “We want a lot of guys to scrap and be tough and battle out there for offensive rebounds or drawing fouls. I think that’s going to be important moving forward, too.”
Turgeon had questioned that about his team earlier this season, when it was badly outrebounded by Towson (46-33, including 17-8 on the offensive glass) and was also outrebounded by Stony Brook (38-35, including 12-3 on the offensive boards). It was a problem that plagued an even bigger Maryland team last season.
The Terps did better at the Barclays Center, outrebounding Richmond, 46-37 (18-9 on the offensive boards) and then staying fairly even with Kansas State, which outrebounded Maryland 35-34 overall but wound up with the same number of offensive boards (14).
“We’ve gotten a lot more physical this weekend. We played two really good teams. I think we got tougher this weekend,” Turgeon said. “We rebounded a little bit better, so that will help us going into Pittsburgh.”
Turgeon looks at the Panthers the same way other teams viewed the Terps last season, when Melo Trimble was the only player in the starting lineup under 6-4 and Maryland had a big front line in Robert Carter Jr., Jake Layman and Diamond Stone.
“They give us some matchup problems, but they’ve got to chase us, too,” Turgeon said of Pittsburgh. “They're switching everything [on defense] and don’t care about matchups, so we’ve got to adjust to that quickly and take advantage of those matchups.”
Pittsburgh coach Kevin Stallings doesn’t know what the fuss is about when it comes to his team’s collective size.
“We’re not short at any position and we’re not tall at any position aside from the point guard spot,” Stallings said Monday in a telephone interview. “We don’t feel big to me. We’re neither big nor are we small. We can be affected inside by big guys and we can be affected on the perimeter by quick guys.”
Stallings said the Panthers have had some games this season “where other teams' quickness has bothered us, particularly when we’re on defense, and that’s obviously Challenge No. 1 when you play Maryland – the quickness of their guards and their penetrating ability.”