By: Eric Myers
With just under a minute to play, Maryland was clinging to a four-point lead after leading by as many as 22 points in the second half and seeing Bruno Fernando foul out. Delaware guard Kevin Anderson looked to attack Maryland’s perceived weakness on the interior without Fernando, but freshman big man Jalen Smith stepped up and provided a pivotal block.
“[I was] just focusing on my defense rather than my offense because I knew that since I was the only big in the game, I had to be the force on the defensive end,” Smith said.
When separated from his frontcourt running mate, Smith became that force on the defensive end to help Maryland seal the win. But when the two were on the court together, the pairing was a force on both ends which helped the Terrapins come away with the victory.
Smith led the team in scoring and rebounding in his collegiate debut, scoring 19 points and collecting 13 rebounds in 31 minutes. Meanwhile, Fernando managed to score 15 points, grab four rebounds and block three shots in just 20 minutes as he was saddled with foul trouble in the second half.
Fernando and Smith in the same frontcourt poses a lot of problems for an an opposing team. Both players have unique skill sets and are capable of playing around the rim and have shown the ability to shoot in the mid-range and from the perimeter.
“I think they’re going to have a lot of success playing those guys together,” Delaware head coach Martin Ingelsby said. “I think with those reps and the experience, I think those guys are two of the best young talent front-line guys in the Big Ten.”
Ingelsby saw the potential that the frontcourt tandem of Fernando and Smith have first-hand. as the The Terrapins used that duo to stake a big lead in the first hal and f, while hold on for the winSmith helped sustain the lead on the court in the final period without his frontcourt partner. When the two players were on the floor together, Maryland outscored Delaware by 13 points.
|Smith and Fernando||Just Smith||Just Fernando||Neither|
Based on the results in the first game of the season, it will be imperative for both Fernando and Smith to stay out of foul trouble this season as Maryland’s interior is decisively more effective when the two play together.
Even though Fernando was relegated to the bench for much of the second half with foul trouble, the sophomore center still tried to impact the game with leadership and suggestions to get Smith open looks on the offensive end against a smaller defensive lineup.
“I just thought his leadership when he’s sitting on the bench after he fouled out was great,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “Last year he might have pouted a little bit. His leadership was terrific.”
When Fernando was leading from the bench, the honus to be an impact player on the interior for the final 4:32 of a close game went to Smith. But despite that situation in his debut, Smith said he didn’t allow the pressure to get to him and instead forced it to help him focus in on closing out the game.
That leadership from Fernando comes from a place of empathy he holds with playing college basketball as a freshman. Now in his second year in College Park, Fernando understands the adjustment that comes to stepping on the floor and being immediately thrust into an important role on the team.
“It was something that I embraced,” Fernando said about his leadership role. “I think about myself at that time last year, having a few mistakes as a freshman and not knowing where to be on offense and stuff like that… but I’m always going to try to help them whenever I can.”