Up 10 points midway through the second half against Bryant, No. 13 Maryland men’s basketball was eager to finally establish a commanding lead.
Forward Jalen Smith grabbed a defensive rebound and the Terps pushed the tempo to the other end of the court, leading to an Aaron Wiggins floater that fell short. However, fellow guard Darryl Morsell was there for the putback tip-in, giving Maryland a 12-point lead — its largest through over 30 minutes of play.
The Terps (11-2) were able to build on the advantage and pull away for good in the final nine minutes of play en route to an 84-70 victory over the Bulldogs (9-4) in their final nonconference game of the regular season.
“We went into halftime and [head coach Mark] Turgeon and the guys, we decided that — we said that we were going to lock in defensively,” Wiggins said. “We didn’t want it to be a close game, and it was still closer than we would have liked. But we were better on defense in the second half and that really stretched the lead out.”
With under two minutes remaining in the first half, guard Eric Ayala ran down the left side of the court and caught a cross-court pass from fellow guard Anthony Cowan Jr. The sophomore stepped into the pass, set his feet, and made the three-point attempt over an outstretched Bulldog hand — his second shot from deep in a span of 30 seconds.
Ayala’s personal six-point run within the final two minutes of the first half gave Maryland an eight-point lead — its largest of the game to that point.
In the first half alone, the Terps were able to jump out to a seven-point lead three times in the final seven minutes, but turnovers and lapses on defense allowed the Northeast Conference team to remain close with a 36-31 Maryland edge at halftime.
Turgeon’s team finished the game with 16 turnovers that resulted in 15 points for Bryant.
“Just the turnovers, we have to be better with,” Turgeon said. “But a lot of it has to do with their defenses and us just getting really used to it as the game went on.”
After Maryland had its first seven-point advantage with under four minutes left in the first period of play, Cowan maintained his focus on the Bulldog ball handler and allowed Michael Green III to cut backdoor for the easy layup.
But per usual, the Terps started the game slow. Maryland went over five minutes without a made shot from the field, going 0-for-4 from the field and 0-for-1 from deep, receiving its first three points from the charity stripe.
The Terps’ scoring drought ended when Darryl Morsell jump-stopped in the lane and turned around to find a wide-open Cowan in front of Bryant’s bench. Despite the yells from the Bulldogs on the bench, Cowan knocked down the shot for his first points of the day.
Though it appeared Ayala was going to give the Terps an eight-point lead going into the half once the offense finally got rolling, another defensive lapse cost the them. Darryl Morsell fouled Bryant’s Mikail Simmons on a corner three-point attempt, sending him to the line with seven seconds remaining in the half. He made all three free throws, cutting Maryland’s lead to only five at the break.
The Terps finally began to build on their lead though after nearly seven minutes had elapsed in the second half.
Donta Scott hustled to corral three offensive rebounds in 10-second sequence off of Maryland’s missed shots. During his final offensive board, the freshman grabbed the ball over two Bryant defenders and completed an and-one play to give the Terps a 11-point advantage.
“I thought his minutes towards the end of the half and the whole second half was terrific,” Turgeon said. “Seven offensive rebounds in limited time is terrific.”
Along with his three-point play, Scott secured seven offensive rebounds and scored seven of his nine points in the second half to help extend Maryland’s margin and secure the victory.
Three things to know
1. The Terps shot well from deep. Prior to its matchup against the Bulldogs, Maryland had hit over 30 percent of its shots from beyond the arc.
But today, they finally broke though with a season high 50 percent from deep. Wiggins, Cowan and Ayala led the deep attack with two three-pointers each.
“We’ve been getting a lot of shots up in practice,” Wiggins said. “I think a lot of guys are just keying in and starting to be more confident with the shots they take. And I think that’s playing a big part in it.”
2. Maryland crashed the boards. After the departure of the Mitchell twins on Dec. 27, questions marks were raised about Maryland’s depth in the front court. Though Bryant is not the largest team the they have faced this season, the Terps outrebounded the Bulldogs 48-16 — in large part to Jalen Smith’s 10 rebounds to go along with 11 points.
3. Freshman Chol Marial made his debut. Marial — a 7’2 freshman from South Sudan — made his first appearance in a Terp jersey near the 13-minute mark of the first half.
Marial struggled on defense at times but his length was on full display against the Bulldogs. He finished with six points, five rebounds and one block in 14 minutes of play.
“Honestly, yeah,” Cowan said about whether or not he was surprised that Marial didn’t showcase any nerves. “But when you’re 7’2 you can just drop it in. There not much nerves going through at that point.”