JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Maryland men’s basketball lives to fight another day, narrowly defeating No. 11-seed Belmont, 79-77, in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64 on Thursday. It’s the Terps’ first postseason win since 2016, and it took a do-or-die second half effort.
A triple from Belmont’s Nick Muszynski cut a late Maryland lead to just 78-77 with 59 seconds remaining in the game. A missed floater from Anthony Cowan Jr. on the other end gave Belmont a possession to go for the win, but the ball landed in Darryl Morsell’s hands after Dylan Windler slipped on a cut. Morsell was fouled and would hit one-of-two before Windler’s last-second heave fell well short.
After a rough opening, Maryland found its footing in the second half. A 14-0 run out of the locker room turned a six-point deficit into an eight-point advantage, but this game would come down to the final minutes.
The Terps were led by their bigs, with Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith playing like they didn’t want the season to end. Smith scored a team-high 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while Fernando notched 14 and 13. With Cowan struggling for most of the game, Morsell and Eric Ayala picked up the scoring from the guard spots, with 18 and 12 respectively.
Belmont was paced and carried by Dylan Windler, who scored a game-high 35. The senior went 11-of-23 from the floor and 7-of-14 from long range. Senior guard Kevin McClain added 19, and no other Bruins reached double figures.
Maryland took a 9-8 lead into the first break, but Belmont would be the aggressor over the next few minutes, led by McClain. He scored 12 of the Bruins’ first 22, with Windler adding two triples for six points over that stretch. After the first 10 minutes, the Terps trailed 22-14 on the wrong end of a 9-2 run. The Bruins would stretch the lead to 12 shortly afterwards before a Fernando three cut the deficit back under double-digits. After starting 0-6, Cowan would get his first bucket after 14 minutes, right before back-to-back threes from Windler and Michael Benkert put Belmont back up 12.
A 9-0 Maryland run put Maryland back in it, keyed by a Smith putback jam and a Aaron Wiggins triple. Two Darryl Morsell buckets later, the Terps had cut the lead to 35-32. They went into the locker room down 40-34, with Windler and McClain accounting for 27 of Belmont’s points.
It only took a minute of the second half for Maryland to eliminate the deficit. The Terps used a 14-0 run out of the locker room to turn a six-point deficit into an eight-point lead. But Belmont didn’t go away, with Windler responding with five straight to cut it to three. A bucket from Ayala gave the Terps a 50-45 lead at the under-16.
Belmont pulled ahead at 51-50, and after some back-and-forth, the Terps clung to a 58-57 lead at the under-12. Belmont continued to fight and a 7-0 run put the Bruins back up six. A Smith bucket broke the streak and a three-minute scoring drought, but a contested Windler triple stretched Belmont’s lead to seven.
Maryland brought it back within one a couple times, but a Cowan triple would tie the game at 71 going into the final media timeout of the game. Three-point plays from Morsell and Smith, the latter on a *monster* jam that countered a Windler dunk, giving Maryland a 77-73 advantage with 1:30 left.
Maryland will go on to face LSU on Saturday, after the Tigers dispatched Yale in the game directly preceding this one.
Three things to know
1. The Terps came alive in the second half. After trailing by as much as 12 multiple times in the first half and by six at the break, Maryland fought its way back in the second half. The 14-0 run was keyed by Fernando and buoyed by Ayala, but even after Belmont punched back, the Terps never quit.
2. Dylan Windler was a problem. If this is your first time hearing his name, you might be surprised. If not, you were well aware of the damage he could cause. There’s a reason the 6’8 guard/forward has been mentioned among the top prospects to watch in the tournament. He went off against Maryland, and no matter what Morsell did to slow him down, he had an answer. It’s the most points a player has scored against Maryland since Mike Scott in 2012, according to The Athletic’s Patrick Stevens.
3. The Terps live to fight another day. it took an inspired second-half effort, but Maryland moves on to the Round of 32. It’s the first postseason win for every player except Ivan Bender and Andrew Terrell, who were both on the last Sweet 16 team.