No. 21 Maryland men’s basketball had a chance to exhibit its newly-acquired players in front of the Xfinity Center crowd for the first time during a regular season game. And as Maryland held a 49-30 lead over Quinnipiac with just under 16 minutes remaining in the second half, the team’s newcomers had a clinical moment on the floor.
Graduate guard Fatts Russell, who transferred from Rhode Island this offseason, used quick footwork to fight his way into the Bobcats’ paint. His elite vision quickly found Maryland’s new big-man, center Qudus Wahab that transferred from Georgetown. The 6-foot-11 Wahab corralled the ball over a few defenders and a rose up to the basket for an easy two points to extend the Terps’ lead even further, a play that was a common occurrence all night long.
Maryland’s retooled roster looked the part of a top-25 team on Tuesday night, as it went on to secure a 83-69 victory over Quinnipiac in College Park in the Terps’ first regular season game at the Xfinity Center with fans since March 8, 2020.
“That was pretty good, I thought defensively in the first half we were terrific, we were a little bit sped up offensively... second half we were a little bit more poised,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “With that being said, it was great to have fans back, have some students there tonight and just kind of get that first game behind you and play well.”
Head coach Mark Turgeon and the Terps are now 1-0 and they will now look ahead to a Thursday matchup with George Washington. The win over the Bobcats marks the 45th straight home-opener victory for Maryland dating back to the 1977-78 season.
Bringing out their newly-formed roster in front of the Maryland faithful, one of the Terps’ highly-touted additions to the program started off this one on the offensive end of the court. Russell showed his blistering speed out of the backcourt right away and bursted to the basket for a fancy reverse layup to give Maryland its first bucket of the season.
Maryland shot just 2-for-6 from the field out of the gates, but the team’s defense kept the Bobcats at bay in the early minutes of the first half. Quinnipiac also couldn’t connect on much, missing five of its first seven attempts from the floor as Maryland had an early 9-5 lead.
A lot of Maryland’s success in the first five minutes came in the rebounding game as the Terps were swarming the glass in an effort to make up for their missed shots. Just before the first media timeout, senior guard Eric Ayala grabbed an offensive board, his third rebound of the evening, and went right back up for an easy layup, and he capped off the play with a foul as well. Ayala, Maryland's leading scorer in 2020-21, led the charge with six points in the five minutes, officially giving him 1,000 points in his Maryland career.
“Every day I walk in here I see the guys in the hallway, you know, hopefully, one day I feel like I’ll get there. Just leaving my stamp here in school history,” Ayala said. “We got a Big Ten regular season championship up there in the rafters and hopefully we can add some there this year.”
After Ayala’s three-point play, the Terps continued their aggressive push towards the basket and rattled off a 9-0 run over the course of a minute and a half to take a quick 14-5 lead. Maryland was forcing Quinnipiac into turnovers left and right as the Bobcats had four turnovers by the 13-minute mark.
Turgeon opted to utilize the bench early after the starters weren’t able to find the scoring touch in the early goings. The starting five was a combined 5-for-14 from the floor, though Russell and Wahab each scored their first four points of their Maryland careers.
Sophomore guard Ian Martinez got on the board quickly after subbing in. His floating jumper off the backboard extended the Maryland lead to 16-8. Sophomore forward Pavlo Dziuba also got in the mix halfway through the first half, connecting on a three-pointer from the right corner off an assist from Russell.
Freshman forward Julian Reese — a standout in Maryland’s lone exhibition win four days ago — came to Maryland as a four-star recruit and put on a show after coming in to replace Wahab. Reese combined for a few blocks that garnered some cheers from the crowd and he was a visible factor on the offensive end. He helped Maryland to a 12-point lead with just over seven minutes left in the first half after hitting three of his first four shots for seven points, along with three rebounds.
“Julian is a good player, he’s learning a lot from coaches and he’s been developing a lot and tonight you can see what he did... I feel like he’s going to help us a lot,” Wahab said.
Maryland’s new and returning pieces continued to click late in the first half. Martinez and Scott hooked up for a beautifully-executed alley-oop, which was finished off by Scott as he flushed it down for two to bring the Terps’ advantage to 33-15.
Even with its new additions shining right away, it was the Terps’ defense was the aspect of the program that stood out as it shut down Quinnipiac’s offense entirely. Maryland’s strong effort on the perimeter and its paint protection forced the Bobcats into 30% shooting from the field and 10 turnovers after the opening 20 minutes.
Two straight lay ups from the transfer Russell, who finished the first half with a team-high eight points, helped Maryland cruise into the break as it went up 41-25, despite it turning the ball over nine times.
Wahab, a transfer from Georgetown, kicked off the second half with a clean fadeaway from just outside of the paint to kick Maryland’s offense off, which shot one the 50% mark in the opening half. Wahab followed that up with an offensive rebound and a bucket, and then another jumper as he provided the Terps’ first six points in the second half.
“Our centers were terrific,” Turgeon said. “Q was great, Julian was great, it’s nice to have guys that can score around the rim, they were terrific.”
Maryland found itself up 53-33 with just under 16 minutes remaining after Wahab upped his point total to 15. Wahab and Russell made it clear that they would be big factors on offense. The transfer duo combined to score 23 of the team's 53 points up until that point.
The Terps kept their distance from the Bobcats on the scoreboard halfway through the second half, reaching the 60-point mark before their opponent managed to score 40. Ayala’s second and third three-pointers of the day with just under eight minutes left gave Maryland its fifth scorer in double-figures.
Albeit the second half being much closer scoring-wise, the Terps did enough to keep the Bobcats from mustering any kind of comeback. A three from Donta Scott and a free throw from Martinez gave Maryland a 79-58 lead with just five minutes separating it from its first win of the season.
All of Maryland’s players on the court in the remaining five minutes, besides freshman James Graham III, hadn’t played in a Maryland uniform prior to the game. Despite Quinnipiac making a late push, the Terps eventually captured the 83-69 win on their home court.
Three things to know
1. Freshman forward Julian Reese is going to get significant minutes for Maryland. The four-star freshman, brother of Maryland women's basketball star forward Angel Reese, showed out for Maryland on Tuesday night in his first taste of regular season action. Reese did an excellent job of using his 6-foot-9 frame in his 10 minutes of first-half court time, getting seven points on 4-for-7 shooting and four rebounds, two of which were offensive. He finished the game with 11 points and 7 rebounds to go with three blocks and one steal. The Baltimore native proved that he can be a serviceable forward for Maryland moving forward.
“Julian is really good, I don’t know he’s in traffic and all of a sudden he’s by the rim, it’s pretty unique what he’s able to do,” Turgeon said. “He’s got great hands, great length.”
2. Despite the departure of Aaron Wiggins, the Terps’ offense will be just fine. Wiggins was second on the team last season with an average of 14.5 points per game, but Maryland’s retooled roster provided its fair share of assistance on offense. Russell, Reese and Wahab provided the bulk of the scoring other than Maryland’s returning trio of Hart, Scott and Ayala. Those three newcomers added 40 points and helped buoy Maryland’s offense throughout the evening. This Maryland offense is ready to take a step forward this season, as shown by Russell’s explosiveness and Wahab’s dominant paint presence.
3. Maryland’s three-point shooting wasn’t the focal point of the team’s scoring. Early in the second half, the Terps had made just three of their eight attempts from long range. Only Ayala, Martinez and Dziuba had connected on a three as Maryland’s main focus was to score from within the paint. The Terps finished with just six three-pointers on 35.3% shooting from deep. The three-point shooting is not something that’s too concerning for this team moving forward, but it’s something to keep an eye on.