PREVIEW: Maryland-Eastern Shore Closes Non-Conference Play with a Road Date Against Columbia

Devon Martin (4) and Dontae Caldwell (20) will look to lead the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks to a road win on Wednesday night over the Columbia Lions to close out non-conference play. (Source: UMES Athletics)
Devon Martin (4) and Dontae Caldwell (20) will look to lead the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks to a road win on Wednesday night over the Columbia Lions to close out non-conference play. (Source: UMES Athletics)

Playing on the road hasn’t been too kind for the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks to this point in 2015-16. With the exception of a 79-64 road victory over the American Eagles back on December 20th, the Hawks have struggled away from Hytche Arena. They enter Wednesday night with a 1-12 record on the road, and are looking for any sort of positive as they prepare for the daily grind of conference play.

Things don’t get any easier for the Hawks, as they close out their four-game road trip with a contest against the Columbia Lions. The Lions have played extremely well on their home floor this season, holding a 7-2 record inside Levien Gymnasium. As Ivy League play gets closer, the Lions are looking for another win to keep their positive momentum rolling.

Wednesday night gives both teams a shot at one more big win before conference play begins. Take a read below to read what one can expect from the contest.

Game Notes

Time: 7:00pm EST

Location: Levien Gymnasium, New York, NY

Spread: N/A

Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (1-13, 0-2)

Simply put, the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks miss having Michael Myers, Jr. in the lineup this season.

Coming off an 18-win season in 2014-15, which resulted in a CIT berth, the Hawks have struggled for the majority of the 2015-16 season so far. They have losing streaks of 4 games and 6 games already to their name this season, and currently find themselves struggling through their four-game road trip, having lost the first three games in advance of Wednesday night’s tilt. The Hawks are in need of a shot of momentum, and they could get that boost with a win over the Lions.

Even though the Hawks enter the game with a 1-12 record on the road, and 3-13 overall, there are positives that they can take from the sluggish start that can help push them forwards. They were able to play with the likes of the Pittsburgh Panthers, the Saint Joseph’s Hawks, and the Georgetown Hoyas this season, but fell apart in the second half. Their inability to play a complete 40-minutes this season has hurt them on several occasions. Their record could easily be much better, but they have shot themselves in the foot more than once.

After a sluggish start to the season, several of the Hawks’ stars have started to turn things around, and that could set the team up for success in MEAC play. Most importantly, guard Devin Martin and forward Dominique Elliott seem to have found their groove heading into Wednesday, and will look to put together solid performances to give the Hawks the best chance to win.

Martin has scored in double-figures in seven straight games, starting on December 12th against the Maryland Terrapins. Over his last 7 games, he’s averaging an impressive 21.9 points per game. Against Central Penn on December 22nd, Martin recorded a career-high 37 points, just two nights after putting up 34 points against American. He seems to have found his shooting stroke as well, having made at least 2 three-pointers in each of his last six games overall.

In the paint, pre-season First-Team All-MEAC forward Dominique Elliott has also seemingly found his stride in recent weeks. He is coming off a 12-point, 10-rebound performance against Pittsburgh for his second double-double of the year, and he has scored in double-figures in five straight (14.8ppg). He is starting to play like the dominant big man that we all expected him to be at the start of the season. If he can make some smarter decision in terms of shooting the ball, the rest of the MEAC better be worried.

Ryan Andino, who is the reigning MEAC Freshman of the Year, finds himself going through the ‘sophomore slump’. He has been held in check for the majority of the year, averaging just 5.4 points, 0.7 rebounds, and 0.8 assists per contest this season. The Hawks will need to get Andino involved and back on track if they want to take down Columbia, and be a contender come conference play.

Columbia Lions (9-6, 0-0)

Last season, the Columbia Lions were expected to contend for an Ivy League title, especially after coming off one of the program’s best seasons in 2013-14 that saw them make a deep run in the CIT. Before the season even began, disaster struck when it was announced that Alex Rosenberg would miss the entire season due to a knee injury, and the Lions would suffer the ill effects last season.

Fast forward to the 2015-16 season, and the Lions have a healthy Rosenberg back in the lineup, and the team is looking to achieve this season what many thought they would a year ago.

Columbia already has a five-game winning streak under their belts this season, and have taken down some high-quality opponents over their 9 wins on the year. The likes of the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, the Wofford Terriers, the NJIT Highlanders, and the Bucknell Bison have all fallen at the hands of the Lions.

So, how has Columbia orchestrated their turnaround this season? It’s simple: balance and strong shooting.

Four different players for the Lions are averaging double-digit points per game this season, including Rosenberg, who is second on the team with 14.1 points per game in 12 games this season. His presence in the lineup has been a welcome sight, but the Lions have much more to offer.

Star guard Maodo Lo is leading the way on offense again this season, scoring a team-high 16.1 points per game. Lo played with the German National Team in the summer of 2014, and the experience of playing at a high international level has set him up for success with Columbia. He is shooting 43.2% from the field this season, and a respectable 40.2% from three point range.

Add Luke Petrasek (12.9 ppg) and Grant Mullins (12.6 ppg) to the mix, and it’s easy to see from the surface why Columbia has been strong this season, especially on their home floor. As a team, the Lions are shooting 44.8% from the floor on the year, and 38.4% from three point range. While their shooting numbers aren’t the best numbers in the country, they are still getting the job done. Plus, they hold a +7.4 margin in points per game, holding teams to 68.9 points per game.

Columbia has put together a strong start to the season without getting major contributions from one of their brightest stars, but he could break out at any point. Guard Kyle Castlin is averaging a mere 6.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, which is a far cry from his 10.3 points per game a season ago as a freshman. If the Lions can get Castlin going in time for Ivy League play, the Lions will be the front-runner for the title.

Players to Watch

Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks

Devin Martin (G) – 17.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.6 spg

Bakari Copeland (F) – 9.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.6 apg

Dontae Caldwell (G) – 5.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.6 apg

Columbia Lions

Maodo Lo (G) – 16,1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.1 apg, 2.1 spg

Luke Petrasek (F) – 12.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.2 bpg

Kyle Castlin (G) – 6.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.9 apg

There are intriguing match-ups all over the floor that will have an impact in this one. Elliott will match up against Petrasek and Martin will go head-to-head against Lo. At the point guard spot, Andino or Thomas Rivera will go up against Castlin.

One of the more intriguing pairings will be between 6’6” forward Bakari Copeland and 6’7” forward Alex Rosenberg. That showdown could go a long way in shaping the match-up, and could lead either team to the big victory.

The Hawks desperately need a win to give them some sort of positive momentum heading into conference play, while Columbia wants to keep their dominance at home going and notch their 10th win of the year. Levien Gymnasium will be rocking on Wednesday night, and it’s a game that you don’t want to miss.

– T.B.