When the Maryland men's basketball team welcomed Purdue to Xfinity Center last February, the then-No. 23 Boilermakers boasted devastating size, with 7-foot-2 center Isaac Haas complementing 6-foot-8 forwards Caleb Swanigan and Vincent Edwards.
Swanigan had a double-double with 26 points and Haas added nine of his own to push Purdue to a 73-72 win, handing Maryland its third loss of the season.
But coach Mark Turgeon's squad believes it's better equipped to handle the Boilermakers now that Swanigan plays in the NBA and the Terps have more size with the arrival of freshman forward Bruno Fernando and transfer center Sean Obi. The teams will meet to open Big Ten play Friday night.
"When you look at us, at every position we have great size," center Michal Cekovsky said. "It's going to be a great matchup for us."
The addition of Fernando has allowed the Terps to scale up their lineup when needed, pairing two big men and pushing 6-foot-7 forward Justin Jackson to the wing. Fernando averages almost 11 points per game.
That could help the Terps contend with Haas and Edwards, who both averaged 12.6 points per game last year and are scoring 13.8 and 14.1 points this season, respectively.
With Swanigan gone, Edwards has been used in the post more, Turgeon said, though he's still shooting 40 percent from 3-point range.
"Those two are big and they're both good," Turgeon said. "Haas has had a tremendous career and he's gotten better every year. He's passing it better this year. It creates problems."
Guard Kevin Huerter said the Terps will try to deny Haas the ball Friday, a strategy that appears more feasible thanks to Maryland's added size and depth.
"You'll see more of what we did two years ago, before I was here, where they had Ceko, [former centers Diamond Stone and Damonte Dodd], other guys, rotating guys and try to wear them down," Huerter said. "It's going to wear out our guys. We want to wear out Haas. Guys like [Obi] are going to be really important."
As newcomers, Obi and Fernando have a disadvantage entering Friday's conference opener. Coming off a four-day stretch with three away games, the Terps had just a few days to recover and prepare for the Boilermakers. While Huerter said it wasn't too problematic due to the familiarity between the programs, that doesn't necessarily translate for the freshmen and transfers on the squad.
After practicing on Christmas Day last year, Turgeon "begged" the Big Ten to make changes to the calendar to allow for a bigger holiday break. As a result, every Big Ten program is playing conference opponents this weekend — nearly a month earlier than the first conference games last year — before returning to conference play in January.
As the Terps continue to search for an identity after losing former top scorer Melo Trimble, that schedule shift places added pressure on the improved arsenal of big men to rapidly develop. After only eight games, they'll play their highest-stakes game until 2018.
But given the early season success of Fernando in particular, Maryland is confident it can rise to the occasion against Purdue.
"We had a lot of guys play better than they were playing," Turgeon said. "We're heading in the right direction."