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Four takeaways from Maryland men’s basketball’s win over Lehigh

The Terps advance to 7-4 on the season.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland men’s basketball took the court against Lehigh for its first game since Dec. 12.

The Terps looked a little rusty but were ultimately able to pull off the victory moving to 7-4 with one game remaining its regular season nonconference slate.

“I thought our guys did a terrific job of responding in the second half,” interim head coach Danny Manning said. “I thought we had really good balance offensively and we got contributions across the board from a lot of different guys and so that’s always something that you’re happy to see as a staff.”

Let’s take a look at some takeaways from Maryland’s win over Lehigh.

Maryland’s sloppiness was prevalent in the first half but a strong second half allowed it to secure the win.

The Terps ended the half with just a three-point lead after having a 10-point lead with two minutes and 40 seconds remaining in the first half.

Maryland started slow in the opening minutes, found a groove but then allowed Lehigh to build momentum in the later minutes to find a way to close the game to just 37-34 after the first 20 minutes.

With less than 16 minutes remaining in the first frame, the Terps already had two turnovers and were shooting 3-of-7 from the field. Out of the media timeout, Maryland struggled to get back on track. With less than 12 minutes remaining, the Terps were 5-of-9 from the field, including 0-of-1 from deep and had five turnovers compared to the Mountain Hawks’ one.

At that point, Lehigh held a 15-12 lead, however, it would have been more if the Mountain Hawks found more ways to capitalize off Maryland’s mistakes as they scored just two points off the five takeaways.

With about 10 minutes to go in the first frame, when it seemed as though the Terps started to turn things around as they took the lead and held Lehigh to zero points for two and a half minutes, they fouled, awarding Lehigh two free throws that turned into points.

Maryland continued to miss the basket on its shots, opening the door for Lehigh to widen its lead until freshman forward Julian Reese finally sank the Terps’ first bucket in over two minutes from deep to tie the game at 19 apiece with about eight minutes to go.

Out of the timeout, Maryland had back-to-back buckets to extend the 7-0 run that Reese sparked.

Once the Terps offense began clicking, its defense did the same. WIth six minutes to go in the first half, Lehigh had hit just one of its last seven field goals and Maryland grew its lead to 25-21.

At the four-minute media timeout, Maryland had hit four consecutive field goals and held onto its largest lead up to that point, eight. The Terps started to slip again allowing Lehigh to go on a 7-0 run with about two minutes remaining. Senior guard Eric Ayala snapped back with three-pointer, his second triple of the night as Maryland called a timeout but Lehigh created another Terps’ turnover in the final minutes and started sink the shots they were attempting.

Maryland bounced back in the second half, outscoring the Mountain Hawks 39-21.

“We’re capable of playing a lot better than we did in the first half and you know, Donta [Scott] gave us some great energy, you know, coming out in the second half,” Ayala said.

Eric Ayala kept his offensive momentum going and Hakim Hart did the same on defense.

After putting up 22 points, 17, 14 and 20 against Vermont, George Mason, Hofstra and Richmond, Ayala hit a lull scoring nine, two and 10 points in three consecutive matchups.

The guard had a bounce-back performance against then-No. 20 Florida in the Barclays Center putting up 19 points, one steal, one assist, one block and five boards. Ayala shot 6-of-11 from the field, including 3-of-5 from deep and 4-of-5 from the charity stripe.

Against Lehigh, the senior kept that spark alive.

Ayala tallied 10 points while shooting 4-of-5 from the field and 2-of-2 from deep in the first 20 minutes. He also had two rebounds in that frame.

In the second half, the senior brought his point total up to 20 while shooting 8-of-13 from the field, 3-of-6 from deep and 1-of-1 from the free throw line. He also finished the day with two boards and two steals.

“We got two wins. And as a team, you know, we playing well, you know, so that’s all I can really ask for,” Ayala said.

Hart also has strung together strong performances as of late and did so at the Xfinity Center Tuesday night. Over the five games the Terps played before Lehigh, the junior guard has averaged 13 points, a 68% field goal shooting percentage and has shot 9-of-15 from the field in those four performances.

However, in addition to driving up the score and becoming a key piece of Maryland’s shooting, Hart was averaging 1.7 steals per game, the second-most in the Big Ten behind Rutgers’ Caleb McConnell.

Against Lehigh, Hart put up 10 points and five steals in 26 minutes showing why he continues to prove to be an X-factor for the Terps.

“Knowing that Keem’s ability transfers into the game as well than just practice is pretty nice to see,” Scott said.

In games this season when Hart has two or more steals, Maryland has secured a victory.

His five steals were a career-high for the junior guard and the most steals by a Terp since Aaron Wiggins did so Nov. 6, 2018 against Delaware.

Maryland performed in the paint.

Maryland cleaned up on the glass. In the first half, the Terps outrebounded Lehigh 21-11. The Terps were led by Hart on the boards who picked up four rebounds in the first 20 minutes.

Graduate guard Fatts Russell, Reese and junior center Qudus Wahab were right behind Hart with three boards each. Every player to step on the court in the first frame grabbed at least one rebound.

Six of Maryland’s rebounds came on the offensive end and it scored six second chance points in the first half.

When it came to scoring in the paint, the Terps had little challenges there.

Over half of Maryland’s 37 first-half points came from inside the paint with the Terps recording 22 points from that spot. Maryland had six layups in the first frame with Reese leading the way with two.

“I thought our big guys did a terrific job of establishing post position and I thought our perimeter players did a great job of getting in the basketball,” Manning said. “So it was definitely something that goes hand-in-hand.”

Maryland drew fouls early in the second half to get into the double bonus, something Manning has put a great emphasis on these last couple of games.

Wahab and Reese both put together strong performance scoring 11 and 12 points, respectively. Wahab also added eight boards while Reese grabbed six, three of those on the offensive end.

Fatts Russell went down with an injury in the second half.

After putting up two points, five boards, three assists and one steal in 23 minutes, Russell went down with about eight minutes to go in the game.

It appeared to be a contact injury, lower body injury as he gripped his leg and he was looked at while he was down on the court before being helped off to the bench for further evaluation.

If this is an injury that leaves Russell out for an extended period of time, not only would that be upsetting for the graduate transfer but it would greatly impact this Maryland team. Russell has started in all 11 games this season and coming into the Lehigh game, he was averaging the second-most points on the team with 12.8 per game.

His nine steals coming into this matchup were tied for second with guard Ian Martinez behind Hart.

“From the clip that I saw when I was just back in the locker room, I think he banged knees... we’ll get him evaluated and go from there,” Manning said.