Maryland men’s basketball found themselves in a tight and chippy game against Coppin State for the first 30 minutes.
The one bright spot was forward Julian Reese, who kept the Terps in the game throughout the first half, setting a new career-high with 24 points. Reese made all nine of his first-half shots from the field.
No. 23 Maryland men’s basketball (5-0) overcame adversity to defeat Coppin State (3-4), 95-79, in Eagles’ head coach Juan Dixon’s return to College Park.
In the game’s early goings, the lead flipped back and forth as the Eagles passed the ball better. leading to nine first-half assists.
Coppin State tied the game at 19-19 after the Eagles hit back-to-back threes. The Eagles made five 3-pointers in the first half, helping them keep afloat with the No. 23 team in the country.
Reese dominated in the paint, grabbing six offensive rebounds in the first half enabling him to clean up many of Maryland’s poor shots in the first half.
“I feel that was really crucial,” Reese said. “I feel like those boards gave us momentum going into the second half. Those just really sparked us and inspired us to do better things in the second half.”
Additionally, Maryland’s clutch free throw shooting helped separate the Terps from Coppin State. The Terps got in the bonus early in both halves, leading to the Terps scoring 25 points from the free-throw line.
Reese hit his first four free throws while guards Jahmir Young and Hakim Hart combined shot 15-17 from the free-throw line.
Hart broke out late in the first half hitting back-to-back three-pointers to close out the first half, and Maryland’s defense clamped defense, forcing a shot clock violation on the Eagles’ final first-half possession.
At halftime, Maryland was up 47-36 as Hart and Reese combined for 36 points.
Free throws were the difference in the game. Maryland was dominant from the free-throw line after getting in the bonus early in both halves.
The Eagles got another big game from guard Sam Sessoms. Sessoms started the second half by scoring two buckets and getting a steal in the first 30 seconds. Sessoms torched the Terps scoring 28 points.
“I feel getting inside and playing aggressive is our style of play,” Hart said. “That’s going to lead us to drawing out a lot of battles so we’ll be going to the free-throw line. I think if we just keep finishing like this we are going to have a lot of easy points.”
Maryland responded with the Terps going on a 6-0 run, hitting their next four free throws to extend their lead to 55-43.
Things got chippy in the second half, with six technical fouls and five coming in the second half. Early in the second half, Eagles guard Isaiah Gross and Reese got tangled up trying to box each other out, resulting in a skirmish.
After a long delay to sort out the skirmish, Gross, Reese, and Maryland’s bench were each assessed a technical foul. The technical foul on Maryland’s bench resulted in assistant coaches Tony Skinn and Grant Billmeier getting ejected.
“I would gladly lose two assistants anytime to make sure we don’t have a fight,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “I’m not going to tell my assistants now not to go onto the floor to stop a fight.”
Young had a big second half scoring 15 points to finish with 21 points. Young got to the basket with a nice floater layup midway through the second half.
Young also added a nifty assist. Young found guard Ian Martinez cutting to the basket through it up for Martinez, who laid down the dunk midway through the second half to increase Maryland’s lead to 72-56.
Maryland dominated the offensive glass grabbing 18 offensive rebounds, leading to 26 second-chance points. Reese and Hart combined for 11 of those critical offensive rebounds.
Hart, Reese and Young scored over 20 points, the first time Maryland has had three players score over 20 points in a game in 20 years when Dixon, Chris Wilcox, and Lonny Baxter did it in the final game in Cole Field House in 2002.
Next up, the Terps will hit the road for the ACC/B1G Challenge where Maryland will take on Louisville on Tuesday at 7 p.m.