Maryland learned last season just how good Villanova's backcourt can be. Now the Terrapins also have to be concerned about the Wildcats' frontcourt.
Jordan Williams, the nation's third-leading rebounder and Maryland's top scorer, could face a big challenge Saturday in Philadelphia and his team certainly will as it tries to end Villanova's 10-game winning streak.Known mostly for their guard play since coach Jay Wright took over, the seventh-ranked Wildcats (15-1) are receiving more help inside to take some pressure off senior guards Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher.Mouphtaou Yarou, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, is coming off his fourth double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds in an 88-74 win over No. 18 Louisville on Wednesday. Villanova outrebounded the Cardinals 41-23, posting a double-digit advantage for the fourth time in seven games.Forward Antonio Pena was the only Wildcats starter not in double figures but had eight points."We did have a balance and that was unusual for us," Wright said.That could only help Villanova going into this matchup with the 6-10 Williams, averaging 17.7 points and 12.1 rebounds.The sophomore had 19 points and 12 boards when these teams met Dec. 6 last season in Washington, but Maryland lost 95-86. Stokes and Fisher combined for 38 points and nine 3-pointers, while since-departed star guard Scottie Reynolds scored 25. Pena grabbed 11 rebounds, but Yarou did not play."Pena has improved his game say from last year where he can make the 15-footer now. Yarou is really a good, tough, physical inside player at about 6-foot-10, 6-foot-9 for those two guys," coach Gary Williams said. "So they can play a couple different ways. They can play a big team or they can go four guards and still not be that small because one of the guards is 6-foot-6."Pena and Yarou are both averaging more than nine points and seven rebounds, providing legitimate frontcourt threats for a team that often relied on 3-point shooting. The Wildcats have shot 56.4 percent from beyond the arc in four games this month but are 11th in the Big East in 3-point attempts.The Terrapins (11-5) have made an ACC-low 70 3-pointers as they continue to count on Williams, who posted a 10th straight double-double in a 74-55 win at Wake Forest on Wednesday.Three days earlier, Williams nearly led an upset of top-ranked Duke as he had 23 points and 13 rebounds in a 71-64 loss. It was a one-point game with 6 1/2 minutes to play."We knew after that (Duke) game, we played really well," Williams said. "Now we can get our momentum going. ... After the game, everyone was cheering and I said, 'This is just the beginning.' We've got to keep it moving and keep it going."Preventing Villanova from posting an 11th straight win certainly would build the momentum.The Wildcats still get the bulk of their scoring from the backcourt, with Stokes averaging 17.0 points and Fisher 15.3. Villanova is 26-1 when getting more than 15 points from Stokes, and he's shooting a Big East-best 46.8 percent from 3-point range on the season. Fisher has made 7 of 14 this month.Maryland has a budding perimeter threat of its own in Cliff Tucker, who has reached double figures in all five games since being taken out of the starting lineup. He's 9 of 18 from 3-point range in that span.The senior scored a season-high 21 points Wednesday."Of course, I want to start -- coach Williams knows I want to start," Tucker said. "I'm not going to pout about it. Whenever I'm in the game, I'm going to do whatever it takes to help this team win."