For Maryland men’s basketball, the theme going into this highly anticipated season was whether the young Terps squad can handle the target that has been placed on their backs.
“Tonight was more about us… getting my team better getting us working on things we need to get better at,” Coach Mark Turgeon said.
As Holy Cross aimed at that target, Maryland was looking to show off its acquisitions and also emphasize its improvement. While new faces such as Donta Scott and the Mitchell twins were finding their place in this deep team, returning athletes such as Jalen Smith and Darryl Morsell solidified their roles as key players on this squad as the season moves forward.
The Terps had no film and minimal scouting on the newly coached Holy Cross team, but were still able to dish a 95-71 win to open the season.
The Crusaders started the game exhuming confidence that showed with their efficiency from the field. They refused to back down from its top ten opponent. While the Terps went through the first ten minutes playing unlike themselves, the Crusaders made great use of high ball screens coupled with impressive speed and shot 64% from the field. Not until halfway mark of the first period did the Terps finally put their foot on the pedal and take advantage of the Crusaders’ inferior size. A quick 6-0 run created separation and put the Terps up 29-22.
From there, the Terps would not look back. Maryland rode the wave of their hot streak by getting their points from opportune putback attempts, fastbreaks, and turnovers. Coming off the bench, Junior Darryl Morsell took on the lead scoring role in the first half, notching 10 of Maryland’s 51 in the first half.
“[Darryl] definitely came in and gave us that spark we needed… especially on the defensive end like he always does,” Anthony Cowan Jr said.
In the first half, the Terps were honest on defense, accumulating four fouls to the Crusaders’ 14. Many of the visitors’ fouls came from their aggressive inside play, compounded by Maryland’s willingness to attack the basket. Coming into the second half leading 51 to 39, the Terps were looking to replicate their performance in the latter part of the first half.
Maryland started the second half carrying over much of their shooting woes that kept the Crusaders close in the first. Yet despite not shooting well (starting the half shooting 2-13 from three), the Terps continued to fire from deep. They finished the game 5-27 from the three-point line.
“It was the first night, a lot of jitters… but it just shows how good our offense is. We shot 5-27 from three but still put up 95 points… that’s pretty good,” Cowan said.
Even as Maryland almost shot their lead away, their superior finishing ability was far too overwhelming. While Maryland’s three point shooting was lacking, there were many opportunities for a lot of the lineup to get points in the paint. Eric Ayala, Cowan, Smith, and Morsell all acquired a majority of their points in or around the paint. Easy buckets inside helped augment Maryland’s lead.
The Crusaders were producing on the offensive end as well, thanks to much more movement. Holy Cross’ offensive efforts were centered around Freshman Drew Lowder, who amassed 24 of the teams points while shooting 50% from three and almost 50% from the field overall.
But his efforts were to no avail. Maryland overcame some shooting woes and put on a strong second half to dispatch a far inferior opponent. To open the season, Maryland showed no signs of concern regarding the target on its back.
“No easy win in college basketball, our guys had to fight and we got better,” Turgeon said. “We played everyone which is always fun.”