Huerter’s aggressiveness helps Maryland overcome early struggles

Maryland men's basketball

By: Eric Myers

After UMBC’s Jarius Lyle hit a three just before the first half expired, Kevin Huerter shook his head before jogging through the tunnel and into the locker room. The sophomore’s visible frustration summed up an ugly first half for the Terps.

When the teams took the floor for the second half, an increasingly aggressive Huerter led Maryland (12-3, 1-1) with 16 second half points on its way to a 66-45 win over in-state opponent UMBC (8-6) Friday night at the Xfinity Center.

This game came just one day after it was announced that sophomore Justin Jackson would miss the rest of the season with a torn labrum. The team appeared to be lacking the necessary energy during the first 20 minutes.

In the opening half, Maryland shot a dismal 22 percent from the field and 23 percent from beyond the three-point line to go with 10 turnovers. The miscues coupled with tight defensive pressure from UMBC deterred any offensive rhythm, leading to three prolonged scoring droughts over four minutes.

“First half, I’ve been doing this a long time, was one of the worst halves, I think, one of my teams have ever played,” head coach Mark Turgeon said.

Maryland’s first field goal of the game came when Huerter made a mid-range jump shot to break the shooting drought. The Terps followed with an 8-0 run in 64 seconds that gave them an 11-7 advantage in the first half behind three-point shots from Dion Wiley and Anthony Cowan (14 points, nine rebounds, seven assists).

After an ensuing four minute scoring drought, Ivan Bender found Huerter cutting to the basket before throwing down a contested dunk. Darryl Morsell’s bucket in the interior with five and a half minutes remaining would be the last field goal of the half for Maryland.

Despite Maryland’s struggles on the offensive end, UMBC was unable to stake a large halftime lead as they also shot under 30 percent during the first half, including a putrid 4-19 from three. The Retrievers led 24-18 at the half.

A re-energized Maryland team took the floor out of halftime and was able to rejuvenate a once restless crowd after a steal on UMBC’s opening possession led to a Darryl Morsell layup that ignited an 8-2 run that also included back-to-back threes from Huerter.

It took the Terps just six minutes to match their first half point total of 18 as the offense flowed through Huerter, who took command by looking for his shot. Huerter took seven shots, six of them being three-point attempts, in the second half to go along with two free throws.

“I told the team at halftime, ‘we’ve got to get Kevin more shots,’” Turgeon said. “He’s got to shoot more for us to be successful, and he knows it, and that’s my job.”

A 16-4 run, which included four of Maryland’s eight second half threes, during the middle portion of the second half allowed Maryland to pull away and gain a relatively comfortable 55-38 advantage.

The second half saw the Terps shoot 51 percent from the floor and 53 percent on three-point attempts allowing them to subside the first half offensive ineptness that caused anxious feelings for the Xfinity Center crowd.

Maryland finishes the non conference slate by winning 11 of the 13 games outside of the Big Ten with losses to St. Bonaventure and Syracuse. The Terps now enter Big Ten play exclusively, after splitting a pair against Purdue and Illinois in the early portion of the conference schedule, as they host Penn State Tuesday night at the Xfinity Center.

“We did play pretty well in the second half, and Penn State will pose us challenges,” Huerter said. “I think we also learned a lot from this game, learned a little bit more about how to play without Justin [Jackson]. I think we’ll get better as every game goes on.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *