Hakim Hart’s sensational offensive onslaught carries Maryland men’s basketball to win over Saint Peter’s

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Sophomore guard Hakim Hart gathered on the right wing and utilized an up fake to get his defender up in the air. After creating separation, Hart took one dribble inside the arc and buried the deep two-pointer. That jumper was just one of Hart’s 11 made field goals throughout his impressive career-high 33-point performance in his first career start in Maryland’s (4-0) 90-57 win over Saint Peter’s.

“I want [Hakim] to be a guy whether he’s making shots or not making them his mentality is the same,” head coach Mark Turgeon said.

In total, Hart finished 11-13 from the field and 5-7 from behind the arc. His 33-point output is the highest by a Maryland player since Diamond Stone scored 39 against Penn State in 2015. Hart’s consistent shooting keyed Maryland’s offense throughout and the Terps have now scored at least 80 points in each of their first four games of the season for the first time since 2006-07.

“All of the coaches were saying pregame ‘be ready, be confident and just shoot the ball’,” Hart said. “It gave me confidence to go out and score.”

While Hart led the Maryland offense all afternoon, the frontcourt duo of Jairus Hamilton and Donta Scott provided a nice complement as they finished with 15 and 14 points respectively. Collectively, Maryland shot 44 free throws, its highest total in a game this season. The Terps’ 44 free throws helped them maintain a substantial lead in the second half when the offense faltered in spurts.

After Saint Peter’s guard Fousseyini Drame scored the opening basket of the game, Maryland put together a 14-0 run over the next 3:41. During that run, Hart showed he was in a rhythm early knocking down two threes. In addition to Hart, fellow guard Eric Ayala showed his assertiveness aggressively attacking the basket highlighted by a thunderous poster dunk in transition.

“It was huge for him to make those first couple of [threes] and just play with a lot of confidence the rest of the way,” Turgeon said. “Everytime I start out a game by making shots the basket becomes bigger,” Hart added.

As the first half progressed, Maryland’s frontcourt duo began to impose its will down low. Both Hamilton and Scott used their size and physicality to abuse the Peacocks’ lack of size in the post. Once Saint Peter’s cut the Maryland lead to 10, the Terps bounced back led by their post players. Scott scored his second basket of the game with a physical finish inside after a follow and on the ensuing possession center Chol Marial showed off his improved finishing ability with a lefty hook.

The final eight minutes of the first half, neither team generated much offensively, but Maryland’s success at the free throw line helped to extend the lead. Ayala, Hamilton and Scott all took trips to the line as the Terps were in the bonus making the Peacocks pay for overaggressiveness defensively.

While Maryland slowly tacked onto its lead at the foul line, Saint Peter’s struggled to score as they found it difficult to navigate the Terps’ tremendous length on the perimeter. On many possessions, the Peacocks were forced to settle for contested perimeter jumpers.

Maryland’s offense faltered in the latter stages in the first half as they struggled to protect the ball. At the half the Terps finished with 11 turnovers, but still maintained a commanding 19-point advantage as they shot an efficient 65% from the field.

“I was extremely pleased with the way we played today, especially the first half,” Turgeon said. “We locked in defensively, we really guarded.”

Maryland’s offense faltered in the latter stages in the first half as they struggled to protect the ball. At the half the Terps finished with ten turnovers, but still maintained a commanding 19-point advantage as they shot an efficient 65% from the field.

To start the second half, Hamilton converted back-to-back free throws and it seemed like Maryland was poised to run away with the game. However, Saint Peter’s continued to fight and immediately answered with back-to-back threes by Darryl Banks and Matthew Lee. 

As they did all night long, Hart and Hamilton energized the offense providing quick answers as they combined to score ten consecutive points, catapulting Maryland’s lead to 54-32. During that run, Hamilton knocked down two three pointers showing his outside shooting touch, while Hart converted inside. 

“I feel like a lot of guys stepped up and made a lot of big shots today,” Hamilton said. “I had a good little run going for me especially in the second half, so I was just taking my shots shooting them with confidence and that’s what we all did today on the court.”

However, Hamilton’s made three with 16:29 remaining was Maryland’s last made field goal for nearly eight minutes. While Maryland missed 12 consecutive field goal attempts, Saint Peter’s slowly chipped away at the lead. After Maryland took a 22-point lead, the Peacocks put together a 7-0 run which trimmed the Terps lead to just 15.

Just when it seemed like Saint Peter’s was gathering some momentum back, KC Ndefo was called for a double technical foul and he was ejected from the game. After the ejection, Maryland regained momentum as Hart knocked down four consecutive free throws, which built the Terps lead to 58-39. Over the ensuing few minutes, Maryland continued to head to the line as a result of the Peacocks defensive aggressiveness.

With 8:53 remaining, Scott energized Maryland’s offense, throwing down a ferocious dunk giving the Terps their first field goal since the 16:29 mark of the second half. That dunk seemed to reinvigorate some momentum for Maryland offensively, as Scott and Hamilton once again began to feast down low. 

Maryland’s offense hit its stride in the final five minutes– as Hart once again caught fire scoring 12 of the Terps’ next 13 points attacking from both inside and on the perimeter. That sequence put the finishing touches on an all-around tremendous effort from Hart, who shined in his first real extended minutes of the season.