Jahmir Young boarded a team flight to the West Coast several days before Christmas battling what Maryland men’s basketball coach Kevin Willard recalled was the beginning of a cold. Despite the bug, the fifth-year point guard scored a career-high 37 points against UCLA to lift the Terrapins to a 69-60 victory at Pauley Pavilion.
The symptoms became more pronounced, however, during travel back to College Park that included a red-eye charter, and after a conversation on Christmas with Young’s mother, Willard held Maryland’s leading scorer (19.3 points per game) out of practice before electing to sit him for the most recent game, a 75-53 drubbing of Coppin State in College Park on Thursday.
Much to the relief of his teammates, Young has been practicing over the past few days, all but ensuring the Terps (9-4, 1-1 Big Ten) will have their most dynamic player against top-ranked Purdue (12-1, 1-1) on Tuesday night at Xfinity Center.
Maryland is entering the heart of its Big Ten schedule riding a five-game winning streak, its longest of the season. Young watched the Coppin State victory from the bench dressed in black sweats, appearing in good spirits with his flu-like symptoms dissipating.
“I think we responded well,” forward Julian Reese said. “You know, it’s good sometimes — well, not really good — but sometimes it’s good for other guys to step up and get that confidence, especially heading into conference play, just showing our versatility overall.”
Senior Jahari Long started in place of Young and scored a career-high 15 points, making 6 of 8 shots from the field, including 2 of 3 three-point attempts. The 6-foot-5 guard added four assists, three rebounds and two steals in a career-high 30 minutes. It was Long’s first start at Maryland and the third of his career, with the others coming when he and Willard were at Seton Hall.
Donta Scott scored 12 points and became the program’s career leader in games played. The 6-8 fifth-year forward has played in 142, breaking a tie with Jake Layman, who played from 2012 to 2016.
The Terps didn’t need Young against a lower-tier opponent, but Willard said his presence will be vital Tuesday against the reigning Big Ten tournament champions. Last season, Maryland split with the Boilermakers, losing narrowly in West Lafayette, Ind., before winning convincingly at home.
“I’ve got to get Jahmir going again,” Willard said after the win over Coppin State, which completed the nonconference schedule. “He’s been sick for five days, so he kind of worked out lightly today. We’ll get him going lightly [Friday], and hopefully by Saturday he’s practicing and getting back into a rhythm.”
Young scored 30 points in the two games last season against Purdue. His stronger performance came in the rematch, when he had a team-high 20 points with five rebounds, four assists and two steals.
The 6-9 Reese, who added 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds in that win, again figures to draw much of the defensive responsibility against 7-4 Boilermakers center Zach Edey. The Toronto-born senior was the national player of the year last season after averaging 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7 percent.
Edey had 18 points on 8-for-16 shooting and eight rebounds in last year’s matchup in College Park. This season, he is averaging 23.2 points on 62.4 percent shooting with 10.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks.
“Just getting after it,” Reese said of the team’s thought process entering Tuesday night. “Making it real chippy and just making it a good game, especially playing in front of our home crowd. Hopefully we have a good turnout, everybody coming back [from winter break]. It’s going to be a great [environment] — just feed off their energy like we’ve been doing.”
The game will be Maryland’s second against the Associated Press poll’s No. 1 team in less than a year. The Terps lost to Alabama, 73-51, in last season’s NCAA tournament round of 32; the Crimson Tide was the No. 1 overall seed.
With Young out, freshman DeShawn Harris-Smith was the primary ballhandler against Coppin State. He contributed eight points, six rebounds and five assists but committed three of the Terps’ 11 turnovers.
“Definitely excited for Big Ten play,” said Harris-Smith, the All-Met Player of the Year last season at Paul VI. “It’s one of the reasons I came to Maryland because I knew of the tough schedule you’ve got to play just doing conference play, so I’m definitely excited to go against those great guys and see how I can compare.”