Maryland men’s basketball picked up an important win over Minnesota on Thursday. After losing two straight games, the last in heartbreaking fashion, the Terps needed to get back in the win column.
Maryland returned two key rotational players against the Gophers, with Bruno Fernando back at full health and Dion Wiley returning from a concussion, but it was a different group of role players that helped propel the Terps to the win.
Every team knows that Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter can get their points at any time—Cowan scored all 15 of his points in the last 11 minutes and Huerter finished with 19—but outside of those two, the scoring load has been uneven since Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender went down. Michal Cekovsky, Darryl Morsell and Joshua Tomaic combined for 37 points and 12 rebounds and helped Maryland really start to run away with it.
“We kinda shared it,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said after the game. “I don’t think we were leaning on two guys to do all our scoring tonight. I think that was the big difference. I think we were just out there playing basketball.”
Cekovsky had one of his best games of the season, finishing with 17 points, and was the beneficiary of more than a few pinpoint passes from Cowan and Huerter. Huerter and Cowan each were awarded an assist for essentially throwing the ball into the rim while Cekovsky was in the vicinity.
While Fernando was in foul trouble for much of the game, earning his third foul less than a minute into the second half, Cekovsky more than picked up the slack on the defensive end. He had his best game as a rim protector, doubling his season-high with four blocks to go with two steals, matching his career-high for the fourth time.
Tomaic also continued to trend upward. He added seven points and five rebounds in the win and also had a pocket pass to Cekovsky that set up a dunk. Tomaic only needed three shots in 25 minutes, while still rebounding efficiently and knocking in a three-pointer as part of the effort.
“I’m really proud of Josh, how he improved, how he’s growing as a player,” Cekovsky said. “This year is a great opportunity for him. When both guys went down, it’s his position and he really grew as a player.”
Morsell has continued to force the issue on offense, while taking some of the toughest defensive assignments on the other end. He gave the Terps 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including his third made three-pointer of the season. Morsell also contributed another five boards, as the Terps outrebounded the Gophers by a slim 34-32 margin.
The win stops a stretch that included a two game slide and three losses in the last four games. Maryland’s now 15-6 on the season and 4-4 and the Big Ten. While it may not be the same ones every night, the Terps will need similar scoring from the role players if they’re going to make a run in the season’s second half.
“If they were full strength, look out,” Gophers head coach Richard Pitino said. “To have as much depth as [Turgeon] has and sustain Jackson getting hurt and Bender getting hurt, I think [they’re] still a terrific team and a force to be reckoned with.”