By Max Marcilla
On a night at the Xfinity Center where two departed Maryland basketball superstars — Melo Trimble and Jake Layman — were in attendance, the Terps were reminded of their potential.
A season plagued with injuries and letdowns was given a jolt of late-season life, as Maryland upended Rutgers 61-51. The Terps opened both halves with 10-0 runs, and saw just how dominant their underclassmen can be.
Freshman Darryl Morsell opened the scoring with a layup, and sophomore Kevin Huerter followed that up with an acrobatic steal-and-score.
But it was Bruno Fernando that stole the show.
The 6-foot-10 freshman, who has been playing the best basketball of his young career, had arguably his most dominant game. He displayed post moves, a three-point shot, and threw down a jaw-dropping, rim-shattering, alley-oop slam.
“I let him play through a lot of mistakes the other night at Nebraska,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “So he was dialed into the game plan today because the film session wasn’t fun.”
Fernando led all scorers with 18 points and grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds.
Turgeon continued: “I’m sure when I watch the film I’ll say, ‘man, this kid was really locked in.'”
Part of what made Fernando’s night so impressive was his work on the boards. Rutgers only outrebounded Maryland by four, an impressive feat for the Terps, as the Scarlet Knights were the Big Ten’s third-best rebounding team.
It wasn’t a seamless offensive evening for Maryland, which could be attributed in part to Rutgers’ 14th-nationally ranked defense. Although, with Anthony Cowan Jr. leading the charge, the offense was continuously efficient.
Another sophomore, Cowan Jr., opened the second half with a three-pointer, but did his best work as an penetrator and orchestrator. He finished with 14 points and a team-high six assists. He was also part of Maryland’s defensive gameplan on Corey Sanders, the Scarlet Knights’ leading scorer, who was held to just six points.
“[I tried] to beat to the spot,” Cowan Jr. said. “Just making him take shots over a hand. He’s a really good player so that’s really what you’ve got to try to focus on.”
Here are some other notes from Saturday’s contest:
Winning the winnable games
With the win, Maryland is now 6-0 against teams with a worse Big Ten record, including its only road victory against Illinois. The Terps have beaten those teams by an average of just over 10 points, while losing nine of 10 games against the top seven teams in the conference.
One day off
Not only does the victory give the Terps a much-needed win, but it also locks up a single-bye in the upcoming Big Ten tournament. Maryland will play its first game at Madison Square Garden on March 1.
This is the first time since joining the conference in 2015 that the Terps have not earned a double bye, which is given to the top four teams.
Maryland will try to end a dismal road season on a high-note, as it travels to Evanston to face Northwestern on Monday. The Wildcats blew a 27-point lead Saturday afternoon against Michigan State, and fell to the Terps in College Park earlier this month.