By: Eric Myers
After allowing 50 first half points, Bucknell shooting 64 percent from the field and 70 percent from the three-point line, Maryland’s players jogged through the tunnel and into the locker room. Freshman Bruno Fernando was one of few players who walked through the tunnel, a noticeable change of pace from his usual energetic antics.
Out of halftime, a rejuvenated Fernando and fellow freshman Darryl Morsell helped lead the charge as Maryland (4-0) erased a 15 point halftime deficit on their way to an 80-78 win over Bucknell (0-4) on Saturday night at the Xfinitiy Center.
“When we came into the locker room, we knew we had bad energy in the first half,” Fernando said. “We just had to pick it up in the second half in order to get it going and get a win.”
Fernando and Morsell’s manic second half defensive effort turned the game around for the Terrapins. The once uncertain crowd was ignited by defensive stops and forced turnovers that Maryland was able to parlay into offensive success, as they scored 45 second half points.
A key was Morsell’s defensive versatility and his ability to cover multiple positions. The Baltimore native was able to hold his own while covering players with a significant height advantage after switching on screens.
“[In the first half] we were so worried about [Bucknell forward Zach] Thomas, that we were afraid to switch [on screens],” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “Second half, with Darryl’s size, we weren’t afraid to do that and really that was the whole difference.”
The change in defensive philosophy after halftime helped neutralize the Bucknell offense, where they were held to just 28 second half points. After a scorching shooting performance in the first half, the Bison’s second half resulted in them shooting under 30 percent from the floor and making just three of their 14 perimeter shots after halftime.
In the first half, after Maryland and Bucknell traded scores early on, Bucknell caught fire from the offensive end. The Bison were able to gain separation with their three-point shooting serving as the catalyst. Making seven first half threes, Bucknell outscored Maryland from beyond the arch 21-0.
The Terps’ comeback effort was initiated by scoring the first six points of the final 20 minutes of regulation to cut their deficit to single digits. With just under 12 minutes to play in regulation, another 7-0 spurt brought the home team within a point, at 59-58.
Moments later, after Anthony Cowan corralled a defensive rebound and led the fast break, the ball ended up in Kevin Huerter’s hands on the left wing. Huerter pump faked a fast-approaching defender, reset his feet beyond the three-point arch and hit the three-point shot to give Maryland a 63-61 advantage, their first lead since an 18-17 first half lead.
Justin Jackson, who had seven points and 10 rebounds, converted two pivotal field goals that keyed Maryland’s offense in the late stages of the game. Jackson’s first made three of the season put the Terps up 71-68. On the following offensive possession, Jackson came down with a strong offensive rebound before a putback layup that brought the Maryland advantage to 73-70 with just under five minutes remaining.
As Maryland tried to retain its lead and hold onto its come from behind win, Bucknell refused to go away quietly. The Bison cut Maryland’s lead to 74-72 after a converted layup from Stephen Brown with over four minutes remaining in regulation.
Both offenses faltered down the stretch as the score was deadlocked at 74-72 until the final 36 seconds of the game where Maryland knocked down six of eight free throws. The Bison instilled doubt in the game when Thomas (17 points) and Brown made contested three-point shots.
After Brown’s three made the score 80-78, Morsell was whistled for an offensive foul for pushing off a defender. Bucknell had one last shot, and with half of a second on the clock, Thomas’ three fell short with Fernando (14 points, nine boards, and three blocks) on the shot contest.
“Play defense, get a stop. Just move on from whatever the call was, bounce back, just fight through adversity,” Morsell (15 points) said about his mindset on the final play of the game.