Maryland men’s basketball is 12-3 overall and 3-1 in Big Ten play after a dominant 77-63 win at Rutgers on Saturday. After trailing 13-7 to start the game, the Terps went on a 33-6 to end the first half and never let the Scarlet Knights back into the game.
Five Maryland players scored in double figures, with Jalen Smith leading the way with 16 points. The Terps also continued to get key minutes from their bench, with nine players getting at least 13 minutes. Here are the key takeaways from the win.
Another opponent had no answer for Maryland’s bigs.
Despite not scoring as much as they did against Nebraska, both Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith loomed large in the Terps’ win. Smith led all scorers with 16 points and also chipped in six rebounds. Rutgers left him open in the post while Fernando was drawing more attention. He went 7-for-9 inside the three-point line, using some of his savvy to take away the physical disadvantage he faced inside.
Fernando finished with a somewhat pedestrian 10 points and nine rebounds, but also chipped in a career-high five assists. The sophomore was much better passing out of the double team, waiting for the attention to come before kicking to a wide open teammate. It was a big improvement from Tuesday, when Fernando committed six turnovers that were largely a result of not recognizing the double team,
Fernando and Smith will have a much bigger challenge Tuesday night against Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy, who is one of the best rebounders in the country.
The bench continues to improve.
In the span of a month, Maryland’s bench has turned from a serious concern into a pleasant surprise. Ricky Lindo has emerged into a legitimate option off the bench over the past week, getting more time with his effort and energy on both ends of the floor. Serrel Smith Jr. played the best overall game in Maryland career, scoring 11 points while continuing to be a pest on the defensive end. Ivan Bender played 13 minutes, pulling in six rebounds.
The Terps have now developed a solid nine-man rotation, which is a big bonus as conference play heats up. With the five of the nine being freshmen, Maryland’s rotation should only get more comfortable and confident as the season continues.
Maryland won’t have a road game easier than this.
The only thing keeping the Scarlet Knights in the game early was Maryland’s freezing-cold start. The Terps went 2-for-13 to start the afternoon and looked like a team that had four fewer days to prepare for the game. Once Maryland got going, though, Rutgers really had no answer. The Terps were able to move the ball at will and created shots for everyone. The Scarlet Knights continued to stay cold, and defense and hustle can only go so far if you don’t make shots.
That’s plagued Rutgers in Steve Pikiell’s short tenure, as the Scarlet Knights haven’t cracked the top 200 in KenPom’s offensive effiency in his three years in Piscataway. This will certainly be Maryland’s easiest road game of the season, with seven of their eight remaining games away from Xfinity Center coming against teams with a legitimate shot at an NCAA Tournament bid.