It wasn’t without some heart palpitation-inducing moments, but No. 17 Maryland men’s basketball picked up another road win, beating Indiana, 77-76.
Among all the drama, here’s what stood out from the Terps’ victory.
1. Jalen Smith continues to dominate
On Tuesday night in Maryland’s win over Northwestern, Smith was a revelation. He set a new career-high with 25 points, going 7-of-13 from the floor and 2-of-5 from deep while adding 11 rebounds and a block.
And while it’d be hard for anyone to replicate that performance, Smith did the unfathomable — he broke his career-high just five days later and was even more efficient in doing so.
In the rollercoaster victory, Smith scored 29 points on 10-of-14 shooting — making a career-high four triples on six attempts — with 11 boards and a pair of blocks. And when the game was on the line, he made the biggest plays of the day.
Jalen Smith gives Maryland the lead late with a clutch play. pic.twitter.com/MO2ZcyxXtU— Lila Bromberg (@lilabbromberg) January 26, 2020
“He’s playing his tail off. He’s been phenomenal — offensively, defensively, decision-making,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “He’s walking around with a little bit more of a swagger in between games. and all that stuff, so he’s feeling good about himself. ... Stix is really taking it to another level.”
While Anthony Cowan Jr. is the veteran leader of the team, no one has been more important to the Terps’ success as of late than Smith. Since the calendar flipped to 2020, he’s averaging 19 points per game while shooting 61 percent from the floor. And in Big Ten play, he has a conference-high 56.7 percent on three-pointers.
2. The Terps have gotten it done on the road this week
With the win over Indiana, Maryland has done what was once thought to be impossible — the team has won consecutive true road games.
And it wasn’t as if the Terps coasted to victories. Against the Wildcats on Tuesday, Maryland trailed for over 32 minutes before taking the lead for good with 5:48 left.
On Sunday afternoon, they fell behind with 14:38 remaining and trailed until Smith’s layup with 14.5 seconds to go. It was the polar opposite of the finish to the Wisconsin game a couple weeks prior, when poor last-minute execution saw a Maryland lead evaporate with fewer than 10 seconds on the game clock.
“Whoever stays positive and tries to show up on game day and do the best they can [sneaks] one out like that every now and then,” Turgeon said. “We lost one like the exact opposite [of today]. We were up one in Wisconsin and they beat us. We’re really close to having three straight road wins.”
The key to victory for the Terps was passing effectively and efficiently. After a spectacular passing performance a few nights prior, they had 14 assists to just five turnovers, the latter of which tied a season-low. While Cowan and Eric Ayala had trouble shooting on Sunday, they combined for 10 assists and didn’t commit a single turnover between the two of them.
While losing its first four true road games of the season hasn’t been erased with the latest victories, the concerns regarding Maryland’s ability to win away from College Park should be lessened after this week. And after four road games in their last five contests, the Terps will be rewarded by playing three of their next four at home.
3. Darryl Morsell had a resurgent performance
While Morsell was a rock for Maryland early on in the season, the junior — one of the team’s most experienced players — was in a rut. Since the team went on the road to play Iowa, he averaged 4.5 points on 5-of-25 shooting, missing all four of his three-point attempts.
But when the Terps needed him to step up against the Hoosiers, Morsell answered the call. With just over five minutes to play and the team down five points, he fought his way inside for a layup after grabbing an offensive rebound.
Darryl Morsell gets the Terps some much-needed points down low after grabbing the offensive rebound. pic.twitter.com/pUY2OfSapR— Lila Bromberg (@lilabbromberg) January 26, 2020
On the following Terps possession, he finished at the rim for an and-one basket, energizing the team heading into the final media timeout and cutting the deficit to just two.
“He wasn’t very good [early], and I sat him next to me quite a bit over there and I think he just was really pissed,” Turgeon said. “He was pissed at me, he was pissed at himself. And he was terrific the last seven minutes.”
Morsell finished the game with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, joining Smith and Cowan as the only Maryland players in double-figures. He had six rebounds — tying his most in a game in 2020 — making the most of his 24 minutes on both ends of the court.