With Maryland leading by three and just over a minute left in the game, transfer guard Fatts Russell had the ball on the left wing. He took two dribbles, stepped back and let it go with him, and the crowd, hoping it would be the dagger that put the Colonials away.
Russell nailed the three, giving Maryland a six-point lead and securing the win. In just his second game in a Maryland uniform, Russell established himself as a Terp, knocking down a clutch shot as many Maryland guards have done before him.
Maryland came back from a lackluster first half to defeat George Washington, 71-64, in College Park on Thursday night.
“I’m a big shot taker and a big shot maker,” Russell said. “I’ve been doing that all of my career, I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself.”
Transfer center Qudus Wahab led the way, finishing with 18 points and 15 rebounds as the leading scorer for the Terps for the second consecutive game. Behind Wahab, it was a balanced scoring attack with Russell scoring 15, guard Eric Ayala tallying 11 and Hakim Hart adding nine points to carry the Terps to victory.
Maryland was a massive favorite entering Thursday night, but no one would have known it from the way the Terps started the game.
Maryland got off to a slow start, trailing 8-6 through the first six and a half minutes of action. The Terps started the game just 3-for-13 from the field and 0-for-5 from beyond the arc.
Four of Maryland’s five starters had been taken out of the game with the score still tied. Even for the substitutions, it was like a lid was on Maryland’s rim, preventing shots from going through the net.
It wasn’t just a struggle for Maryland to find open looks, the Terps looked sloppy and careless in its second game of a long season. It wasn’t just on the offensive end, Maryland was lost defensively, giving up open looks and allowing the Colonials to get to the basket with ease.
At one point with around four minutes to go in the first half, Ayala attempted to deliver a pass to longtime teammate Donta Scott on the right wing. A colonial defender easily read Ayala’s eyes, jumping in the passing lane to intercept the ball.
As the Colonials went down the other end, they attempted a shot at the rim only for it to roll off. But Maryland didn’t get back from the turnover to properly clean up George Washington’s miss. George Washington’s guard Joe Bamisile was right there for the offensive rebound, tapping it back in to extend the Colonials lead to four.
“You got to give GW a ton of credit,” Turgeon said. “They were really good and they were inspired, they were great defensively.”
Turgeon tried a variety of new lineups to help the Terps snap out of the funk, but no one could seem to break the shooting slump. Guards Hart and Ian Martinez struggled from long range. They were a combined 0-for-6 in the first half and the team was 0-for-9 at the break.
With 10 seconds to go in the half, Qudus Wahab cleared a defensive rebound and passed it to Martinez. Martinez delivered it back to Wahab under the basket, who leapt up and slammed it down over a Colonial defender just as time expired, energizing his teammates and the crowd. The dunk cut the Terps’ deficit to one and gave some momentum to a struggling and discombobulated Maryland team.
“I think it really gave us more energy to come out in the second half,” Wahab said about the dunk.
A familiar face was on the floor Thursday night and he wasn't repping the gold and black. Ricky Lindo Jr., who transferred out of the Maryland program to George Washington following the 2019-20 season, made his return to College Park.
Lindo made sure to leave his mark in his return, knocking down three threes and scoring 13 points, helping lead George Washington to a halftime lead and keeping them in the game for much of the second half.
“Really happy for Ricky,” Turgeon said. “Ricky played terrific, he hit the step back three out there which was really cool.”
The start of the second half was a different story as Maryland came out aggressive on both ends. The Terps turned it up defensively, applying full-court pressure that allowed Maryland to get out in transition. Turgeon’s group started the half on a quick 6-0 run to take a five-point lead that forced George Washington to call a timeout.
The Colonials didn't go away that easy, as they stormed back to keep it a tightly contested game throughout the latter half.
Both teams threw punches in each other's direction, but Maryland started to knock down some perimeter shots and take care of the basketball that allowed them to gain an edge.
With Maryland leading by double digits at one point, George Washington wouldn't falter, battling back to cut the Terps lead to two with two minutes and 14 seconds left in the contest.
From there, it was Russell’s heroics that sealed the win, with a parade of fouls coming from the George Washington side following the dagger.
The Terps outscored the Colonials by eight in the second half en route to the comeback win to improve to 2-0 on the season.
Three things to know
1. Shooting from long range has been a challenge for this team. Following a season where Maryland really struggled to knock down shots from beyond the arc, many expected this team to be better from three. However, through two games, that hasn't been the case. In the first game of the season, Maryland was 6-for-17 from three-point land. In this game, the Terps started 0-for-9 and finished shooting 3-for-20. While it’s early if this team wants to go where it’s capable of, the three-point shooting will need to improve.
2. Fatts Russell is the team’s energizer. Whether it's aggressive transition defense, a beautiful assist or a slick layup, it’s clear this team feeds off of Russell’s energy and when he makes a good play, it usually leads to more. While it wasn't his most efficient night, he still finds a way to contribute on both ends. He finished with 15 points, six boards, one assist and one steal.
3. James Graham was not with the team. Freshman James Graham did not get much action in the opener against Quinnipiac on Wednesday night and many Maryland fans were hoping they would have more opportunity to see him in the games to come. However, that wasn't the case as Graham was not with the team on Thursday night because he violated team protocols, according to the Washington Post’s Emily Giambalvo. It is not clear his status for Saturday’s game against Vermont.
When asked if this would linger on for more than one game, Turgeon gave a simple, “We’ll see.”