One of the storylines heading into Saturday’s showdown between Atlantic Coast Conference rivals in No. 10 Maryland and No. 13 North Carolina is the highly anticipated matchup at the faceoff X between junior Curtis Holmes and sophomore R.G. Keenan.
Holmes is aware of the hype, but he’s making sure that he’s not getting caught up in the undercurrent.
“Obviously, R.G.’s a pretty good faceoff guy, but I think we focus more on the team aspect of it,” the Marriottsville native and McDonogh graduate said after practice Tuesday. “It’s not just me versus R.G. It’s 10-on-10 on faceoffs.”
Still, it’s difficult not to place some of the spotlight on the battle between Holmes and Keenan. The two met twice last season with Holmes winning 15-of-20 faceoffs in a Terps’ 11-6 loss on March 26. In the ACC Tournament semifinal, the duo split 16 draws, but Maryland emerged with a 7-6 decision.
Holmes said he won’t enter Saturday’s contest with a specific strategy in mind, choosing instead to be fluid.
“To be honest, it’s a game-time situation,” he said. “We watch a lot of film on him, but as the game goes on, you start to get into the flow of the game, and you have to adjust constantly to be as successful as you can be.”
This season, Keenan has fared better than Holmes. The Perry Hall native and Boys’ Latin graduate ranks fifth in Division I with a 63.5 percentage (101-of-159), while Holmes is 37th at 51.9 percent (54-of-104).
Terps coach John Tillman said Holmes’ statistics would be better with improved wing play, but he acknowledged that the nature of the position means that everything begins with Holmes and Keenan.
“Obviously, it starts with two really good guys,” Tillman said. “We have a ton of respect for their guy. But we have to be careful about not getting too caught up into it. We have a couple different guys that we can use, and if you look at the stats, they’re far superior to us right now. I think they’re at 64 percent, and I think Curtis is just over 50. If you take that first game away from us, we’ve been pretty average facing off this year. So that’s an area that we’ve got to do a better job in.”
Holmes knows the onus is on him to give his teammates on the offense the ball and possessions.
“Faceoffs are always pretty key, and if you look at their stats, if they’re winning faceoffs, they’re usually winning games,” he said. “So we need to come out and win the faceoff battle and win the groundball battle, and hopefully, that will get us the ‘W.’”