Maryland men’s basketball was in danger after Mount St. Mary’s had reclaimed a lead in the second half Sunday, but a quick three and dunk in quick succession changed things. Eric Ayala then received a pass from Donta Scott near the top of the key, surveyed his options and let a triple fly as part of a quick 10-0 Maryland run that forced the Mountaineers to call a timeout.
The Terps ultimately expanded that to a 21-point run en route to a 79-61 win over the Mountaineers after allowing the opponent to stay within striking distance through most of the contest.
“We picked the pressure up,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. “They made a really tough three against our zone and that tied it, and that was frustrating because they were making a lot of those shots today. That got me out of the zone and I said, ‘Let’s start pressuring again, get our guys going.’ I didn’t like the energy that we were playing with, so we just started pressuring. And then we did a good job of guarding the ball late in the shot clock.”
Mount St. Mary’s started out fast in this one, jumping out to a 13-6 lead on 83.3 percent shooting, including a 3-for-4 mark from three-point range in the opening minutes.
The Terps clawed their way back after trailing by as many as nine points thanks to grit on the defensive end, with Donta Scott and Aaron Wiggins each having coast-to-coast plays midway through the half to shorten the Mountaineer lead.
Hakim Hart received a kick-out pass from Jairus Hamilton at the top left of the key with 7:14 left in the first half and let a three-point shot fly — the first make from long-range for the Terps all game. Hart doubled down on the next possession with a kick-out on the right wing from Aquan Smart to level the game, and Hamilton nailed a three of his own to put Maryland in the driver’s seat with 5:28 remaining in the first half.
Eric Ayala held the ball with the clock winding down in the first half. As he drove in towards the paint, Ayala looked to kick the ball out, but did not have a passing lane. He pulled the ball back in on the elbow and hit a fadeaway shot as the final seconds ticked away, capping off a personal 10-2 run.
“I [had] just seen little openings in different areas of the floor,” Ayala said. “My teammates kind of got me involved, just making sure I’m staying into the game. I appreciate them a lot for that.”
Maryland carried a 41-32 lead into the half, led by Ayala’s 10 points and an eight-point effort from Wiggins. The Terps shot 61.5 percent in the first frame and had 14 points off the bench.
The Mountaineers started the second half similar to the first, grinding along with the Terps to stay competitive. A Scott foul at the top of the key with 11:46 remaining gave three free throws to Gibbs, who helped create a 17-11 advantage in the second half.
Damian Chong Qui then took control of the ball and launched a three-point bomb with 9:41 remaining that tied the game at 56, and the Mountaineers called timeout to fully reset the tempo.
After Mount St. Mary’s took a 58-56 lead, the Terps exploded on a 10-0 run across 1:42 to retake a commanding lead, 66-58, and force a Mountaineers timeout.
“We definitely wanted to lock in and just focus,” Hamilton said of that timeout. “[You want to] make sure that you get the best shot on offense and we limit that their chances on defense. We just wanted to make sure that we were forcing them to the areas where we wanted to force them to so we can limit their spacing, limit their opportunities.”
Out of the break Maryland expanded its run to 23-3 and held Mount St. Mary’s without a field goal for the final 8:57, finally putting its opponent to rest.
“I think us just being active with our hands [was the key down the stretch],” Ayala said. “We kind of switched up our defenses, we pressed a little bit and kind of went to half court defenses and just constantly switching it up. Coach kind of talked about that going into the game. We want to throw multiple defenses, and I think it helped us in that run.”
Three things to know
1. Maryland got a lot of help from its bench. From the onset, rotation players had a big impact, contributing 14 points in the first half alone. By the end of the contest, the bench accounted for 27 points. Hakim Hart had six points, including two key triples, Donta Scott had a team-high 17 points and Galin Smith produced four. The trio also combined for 11 rebounds.
“[I] mostly be confident in my game,” Scott said. “Just knowing that my team needs me, I’m just going to go out there and provide for my team.”
2. The Terps’ turnovers were costly. Maryland turned the ball over 10 times in this one, and Mount St. Mary’s took advantage. The opponent scored 20 points off Terp turnovers, the most of any team so far this season. Old Dominion scored 10 points off such mistakes and Navy had 13.
3. Maryland is off to another 3-0 start. Head coach Mark Turgeon’s squad opens the season with three straight victories for the seventh straight season after taking down Mount St. Mary’s. Last year, Maryland had its best start in recent years, winning 10 straight games.