Maryland basketball improved to 5-0 with a 92-77 win over Mount St. Mary’s on Sunday. It was a relatively easy outing for the Terps, who saw five players finish in double figures.
There was a lot of offense to spread around, as eight players contributed at least seven points, four finished with five assists and three grabbed at least five rebounds. Maryland also managed to avoid the shooting cold spells that have intermittently caused the team problems early, finishing shooting 62.3 percent from the field.
Here are some takeaways from the dominant effort.
The two big men are starting to work well together.
Foul trouble between Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith has hampered the amount of extended minutes they’ve played together through the first four games. Both played within themselves on the defensive end in this one and stayed out of foul trouble, while combining for eight defensive rebounds with Fernando adding four blocks. That composure extended to the offensive end, as the two increasingly played off each other and combined for 37 points and nine offensive boards. The Mountaineers played primarily in a zone, but went to man for a little to try to slow down the twin towers. Nothing really helped.
“[The high-low game] is a weapon for us depending on how people are guarding us,” head coach Mark Turgeon said after the game. “They fronted the post and gave us a chance to run a high-low. Stix [Smith] is getting more comfortable making that pass there. Bruno’s just so strong, so big and so strong. It’s good to see.”
Fernando got almost whatever he wanted in the post, and more often than we’ve seen, it was Smith feeding him from the high post. Smith racked up five assists in addition to his 16-point, 10-rebound double-double, and flashed his skill as a passer against the man defense. Fernando finished with 21 points on 10-of-12 shooting and seven rebounds. As the better shooter of the two, Smith also stepped out on occasion to launch a midrange jumper. Some went better than others, but it kept the zone honest.
Maryland’s bench took advantage of its opportunities.
Maryland’s bench had another deceptively solid game, finishing with 26 points as a unit. Half of those (13 points) came off the best night of Serrel Smith Jr.’s young career, as he went 5-of-9 from the field and 3-of-6 from three. The freshman topped his prior high (7) early with eight first half points, and added a couple more buckets in the second half. He added four rebounds, an assist and a steal in nearly 19 minutes.
“I think it just shows you how much we’re more explosive when he’s playing that way,” Turgeon said. “It makes us deeper and takes pressure off other guys. I think everybody relaxes more. ... We had six guys in double figures last game, and he’s capable of being the seventh guy because of the way we share the ball.”
Aaron Wiggins is also starting to look like Maryland’s best option for sixth man. This is the first time Turgeon re-used a starting lineup, opening with Fernando and Smith in the frontcourt alongside Anthony Cowan Jr., Eric Ayala and Darryl Morsell. Wiggins’ ability to get hot and will to be effective in other areas when cold, may make him uniquely suited for the role. He finished the night with eight points and two rebounds, going 3-of-7 from the field and 2-of-4 from three, including a personal 5-0 run in the second half. The rest of the bench came up with five points, five rebounds a steal and a block.
There are still causes for concern.
The two biggest weaknesses in this game were turnovers and the way Maryland started the second half. The Terps had eight first-half turnovers against Hofstra and another 10 in the first half of this contest. They finished with 18 after getting sloppy again in the game’s final 10 minutes, but on a positive note, Maryland had 23 assists on 38 made shots.
Turgeon also called a timeout less than a minute and a half into the final period. The starters had come out flat-footed to start the second half, giving up four points and an offensive rebound with Darryl Morsell getting blocked all in that span. No substitutions were made, just an on-court huddle between Turgeon and his starters. Up 16 at that point, Maryland expanded its lead to 20 by the first media timeout of the half and as high as 32 before letting its foot off the gas. The end of the game was sloppier than you’d like to see, but was more about effort than mistakes.
“I don’t think we were ready [for the second half],” Turgeon said. “We made a bunch of mistakes—box outs, transitions, out-of-bounds the way we guarded on of their plays. We weren’t dialed in, so I called a timeout. I trust those guys. It’s been our best lineup and so I just got on them a little about concentrating. ... The guys responded there, which was good.”