Maryland men’s basketball began its season with a 68-53 win over Mount St. Mary’s. It marked the 10th consecutive year the Terps have kicked off their campaign with a victory.
In its season opener on Tuesday night, Maryland men’s basketball grabbed the win over Mount St. Mary’s, 68-53. Julian Reese led the team in points and rebounds, and the freshmen class impressed in their debut.@keara_bruno has the video recap. pic.twitter.com/LVfXQ5myML— Testudo Times (@testudotimes) November 8, 2023
Here are three takeaways from the game.
DeShawn Harris-Smith looked as advertised
Expectations couldn’t have been much higher for DeShawn Harris-Smith entering this season. As Maryland’s first true freshman to start a season opener since current NBA players Jalen Smith and Aaron Wiggins, the pressure was on. He delivered with 12 points, four rebounds and two assists.
When Jahmir Young was substituted out of the game in the later stages of the first half, Harris-Smith took over with the most impressive stretch any single player put together Tuesday.
Entrusted with point guard responsibilities, he ran the offense comfortably and played with physicality beyond his years. He also made copious hustle plays on defense, recording two steals and a block while showcasing his relentless motor.
“After I seen my first layup go through I felt comfortable,” Harris-Smith said. “Knew it was just basketball. At the end of the day it’s just a game, so definitely got like in my zone ... and then I was able to score a few more points before the half ended.”
Harris-Smith went down early in the second half, which ushered in a brief moment of anxiety among the Maryland faithful. But he returned shortly after, quelling any serious concerns. He later clarified that it was nothing more than a cramp.
Kevin Willard extended his bench
Maryland head coach Kevin Willard expressed in the preseason his comfortability extending his bench and playing a litany of players. He backed up his word Tuesday, sending 10 players onto the court before six minutes had elapsed.
The Terps trotted out a starting lineup of Young, Harris-Smith, Jordan Geronimo, Donta Scott and Julian Reese. Within minutes, Noah Batchelor and Jahari Long were the first two players off the bench. Not long after, Caelum Swanton-Rodger, Jamie Kaiser Jr. and Mady Traore checked in too.
By the end of the night, 11 players had seen the court for Maryland, with all but two playing double-digit minutes. Willard noted that injuries during the offseason hampered his ability to properly design rotations and that his substitutions will be more fine-tuned as time goes on.
“I felt like I spent too much time trying to sub and not enough time trying to figure some things out,” Willard said.
Maryland’s improved defensive versatility was also on display Tuesday. Jordan Geronimo, despite putting forth an offensive performance far from noteworthy, could be seen guarding every position on the floor and contesting shots. Even though Geronimo started, he and Kaiser Jr. split minutes at small forward, with Kaiser Jr. going 2-for-4 from the field, including nailing one of the team’s three 3-pointers.
Julian Reese is on track for a breakout season
Although the novelty of Harris-Smith’s performance drew eyeballs, Reese was the best player on the floor Tuesday. He led all players with 18 points and eight rebounds, showcasing both his prowess in the paint and chemistry with ball-handlers on pick-and-rolls. He made eight of his 11 shots, five of which were dunks or layups.
“I feel like I still left a lot of points out there and a couple more rebounds, but nonetheless I’m very proud of myself and proud of my team for getting the win,” Reese said.
Reese’s foul issues did resurface, though, to limit his playing time — he picked up his fourth foul with 11:45 left — and his free throw troubles were on display again, with a 2-for-7 mark from the line. There’s room for improvement, but against a team that lacked the size and physicality of the Terps’ future opponents, Reese showed why he’s garnered buzz as a candidate for a breakout season.
Willard was ready to go a step farther, saying, “I think Julian’s probably one of the best college basketball players out there right now.”