After picking off a careless Holy Cross pass in the back court, No. 7 Maryland men’s basketball guard Darryl Morsell took one dribble and gathered himself to slam home his first points of the 2019-20 season.
Following his two-point contribution, Morsell, who didn’t receive the nod to start, drew a charge at the other end of the floor against the Crusaders.
While the Terps starting five beginning the game sluggish, Morsell brought a gust energy to allow Maryland to go on an 8-0 run that led to an 95-71 victory over Holy Cross — its most points in a season opener since 2010.
“He definitely came in and gave us that spark we needed,” senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. said. “He definitely came out really aggressive, especially on the defensive end — something that he always does.”
With Maryland returning seven of its eight rotational players and some freshmen with the chance to make an impact right away, there was much debate on who would be included in the Terps’ 2019-20 starting lineup.
“Everyday, we talk about being selfless as a team,” Morsell said. “Only five people can start. As a competitor, you obviously want to start. Regardless, I’m a basketball player. I’m going to come in [and] play and try to help the team win any way I can.”
Although he was the odd man out, Morsell continued to be the Terps’ glue guy, finishing at the rim, hitting jump shots and taking charges. Morsell finished with 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals in 23 minutes of action.
Jalen Smith led the team with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Cowan and Eric Ayala had 12 points each, respectively.
The Crusaders didn’t appear to be frightened from Maryland’s top-10 ranking from tip-off. Despite being forced into three turnovers before the under-12 timeout, Holy Cross was in control, executing its offense against a struggling Terps defense.
Maryland entered halftime with a 51-39 advantage — a lead that was capped off by a three man connection between Smith, Cowan and Morsell for a dunk.
While Morsell was efficient, at one point leading the team in points and assists, other Terp players, including Aaron Wiggins, Smith and Cowan were not. The trio finished 15-37 from the field for 37 points.
Morsell started the second half, contributing to Maryland’s 9-0 run after about four minutes of play.
The Terps sped up their tempo in the half, attempting to get easy buckets in the open floor. Of the team’s 44 points in the half, 16 came in transition. Maryland finished the game with 22 points in the open court.
“The pace that they were playing at — I don’t think we were ready for it immediately,” Morsell said. “Once we started switching screens and stuff, we [were] able to get stops and get out and run.”
The Terps shot 49 percent in the second half, which included a dunk from Ayala. The sophomore guard drove down around the eight-minute mark and threw the ball through the net. However, on his way down, Ayala slapped the backboard and warranted the first technical foul of the year.
Despite starting the second half off as it did to begin the game, Maryland continued to apply pressure and build a dominant lead against Holy Cross. The Terps grew their lead from nine points at halftime to 20-plus points — a deficit that was too large for the Crusaders to overcome.
“We had no film on them whatsoever — we might have been able to adjust quicker,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “Sometimes young guys have to practice it. You can’t just talk about it. And that might have helped us in a way.”
Three things to know
1. It’s Anthony Cowan Jr.’s final season opener. After testing the NBA Draft waters, Cowan is back for his final year and started in his 100th Maryland basketball game Tuesday night. The senior guard finished with 12 points, four rebounds and five assists in 30 minutes. If the Terps are going to make a deep run this season, a lot will depend on Cowan’s play and decision making.
2. The Terps struggled beyond the arc. Although the team had multiple chances from three, Maryland could not add any points from beyond the arc. The Terps shot 5-for-27 from three-point range. The team’s best shooter, Aaron Wiggins, also struggled, finishing 0-for-6 from deep.
“I do not worry about Aaron Wiggins making shots,” Turgeon said. “He’s too good of a shooter. He’s got to have a short memory and just try to make the next one.”
3. Maryland goes to a deeper rotation. Head coach Mark Turgeon has said that this is the deepest team that he’s had in his Maryland tenure. On Tuesday night, that statement came to fruition as eight Terps saw meaningful minutes.
The three players that came off the bench — Darryl Morsell, Serrel Smith Jr. and Donta Scott — all played at least 14 minutes apiece and combined for 32 points. Freshman Makhi Mitchell also was able to make an impact with six points and three rebounds in eight minutes played.