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No. 7 Maryland men’s basketball’s delayed surge leads to 73-55 victory over Rhode Island

The Terps pick up their second win of the season against a scrappy Atlantic 10 team.

Anthony Cowan Jr vs Holy Cross 2019 Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

After getting stumbled by Rhode Island’s defense and sloppy play early on, No. 7 Maryland men’s basketball decided to slow things down. The Terps passed methodically in-and-out of the paint and grabbed an offensive rebound before Anthony Cowan Jr. found Eric Ayala for a three, shortening the Rams’ lead to 28-25 with 3:26 left in the first half.

Maryland was locked in on defense on the next play, forcing a missed shot before Ayala once again came up clutch, this time with a smooth move for a layup in the paint. The Xfinity Center crowd roared with the game within one at the under-four timeout — thanks to a 15-4 Terps’ run.

And after several more key stops, Maryland took its first lead of the game on a three from freshman Donta Scott at the 1:22 mark. The roars got louder and the Terps’ lead never ceased from that point on en route to a 73-55 victory.

“We all felt relieved,” head coach Mark Turgeon said of the scoring run. “Then we knew we were going to win the game, it was just by how much.”

For much of the first half though, it appeared as if Maryland would be upset by the Rams, who led for over 18 minutes.

In a new season filled with high expectations and hopes, the Terps looked pretty reminiscent of past Terp teams to start. The teams that drove fans crazy with sloppy play resulting in turnovers and slow starts that put Mark Turgeon’s squad in holes early.

In the first action of the season against Holy Cross — albeit not the best opponent — it appeared as if Maryland was finally learning to control the ball and run a smooth fast break, though it also had a slow start. The team only had eight turnovers to 22 fast break points. The exhibition had gone smooth in that regard too.

But against another level of competition, the Terps resorted back to their old habits — a troubling sign to say the least. That was at least until the dominant run to end the first half.

“In the first half, we really [weren’t] running anything, we [weren’t] executing anything like we were supposed to,” Cowan said. “That’s just going back to just going too fast. We’ve just got to slow down a little bit.”

The Rams managed to tie it at 35-35 at the start of the second, but Maryland was determined not to let them back into it.

After committing 14 turnovers in the first, the Terps’ cleaned it up in the second to only lose possession three times. And on the defensive end, Maryland held Rhode Island to just 23 points and a 20.6 field goal percentage, consistently forcing scoring droughts.

The Terps were elevated by a 6-0 run early in the half, followed by an 8-0 run around the halfway point.

“The second half, we were more together as a team,” Ayala said. “We just had to focus and slow down — play poised and stay in control.”

Cowan played a crucial role in maintaining the lead. After ending the first half without a single point, the senior had 14 of Maryland’s 38 points without a single turnover to end the game.

Three other Terps — Ayala, Aaron Wiggins and Jalen Smith —ended in double-digit scoring in the victory. Wiggins especially impressed with the first double-double of his career, ending with 13 points and 13 rebounds, in addition to four assists and three steals. And though it’s nothing new for him, Smith also ended with a double-double on a team-high 19 points and 11 rebounds.

“There’s a lot of guys that can put the ball in the basket for us, so it doesn’t surprise me,” Turgeon said. “We weren’t very good offensively tonight to be quite honest with you. I think our shooting percentage was pretty good, but we’ve got a long ways to go there. And we’ll get better.”

Three things to know

  1. Maryland got back in its groove back behind the arc. After shooting just 18.5 percent on three-pointers in their first game of the season, the Terps nailed 31.6 percent of their attempts behind the arc Saturday night. Wiggins went 0-for-6 from deep on opening night, but he rebounded with a 2-for-5 showing against the Rams.
  2. The Terps continue to experiment with the starting lineup. With such a deep roster, there’s been much debate over who will start for Maryland. And so far, there isn’t a clear answer. Cowan, Wiggins, Morsell, Makhi Mitchell and Jalen Smith started for Turgeon against Rhode Island. Against Holy Cross, Ayala and Ricky Lindo Jr. got the nod, while Morsell and Mitchell came off the bench.
  3. The fast break is back in style in College Park. For the second consecutive game, Maryland scored over 20 points in transition. After notching 22 against Holy Cross on Tuesday, the Terps had 24 on Saturday night. Turgeon has often been criticized for his inability to run the fast break, and he’s certainly shown that isn’t the case so far this season.