By: Jordan Gold
Maryland opened the season Tuesday with a 73-67 win over Delaware, in a game that heavily featured their freshmen players.
Leading the way for the group of newcomers was freshman phenom Jalen Smith. He tallied a team-high in both points and rebounds, with 19 and respectively, in 31 minutes of action. The Baltimore native became the first Maryland freshman in 40 years to record a double-double in their first game since Terps legend Buck Williams achieved that feat.
Some of the other freshmen players also played key roles in the win. Aaron Wiggins had a rough night offensively, only scoring seven points on 1-8 shooting from the field, but still impacted the game by recording seven rebounds and five steals. Wiggins played a team high 36 minutes in the win.
Eric Ayala logged 28 minutes and scored six points, dished out five assists and had two steals. Serrel Smith Jr. and Ricky Lindo Jr. played nine and 10 minutes respectively, but did not have a huge impact in the box score. Serrel Smith and Lindo will both be relied on heavily as the season goes on for strong contributions off the bench.
When it comes to how the freshmen played in their first game, head coach Mark Turgeon was very pleased with their performance. “All in all, I think I’ll go through the film and be happy with the young guys who got to play a lot,” Turgeon said after the win.
Turgeon added that when it came to Wiggins and Ayala, he thought he played them a bit too much, but that was due in part to Darryl Morsell being in foul trouble.
“I thought Aaron was good, but at the end he needs to step up and shoot it. That is what he is out there for. Defensively he was really good. Ayala is a winner. He’s got toughness and he made big plays late,” Turgeon said on the performance from his freshmen guards.
Turgeon went on to say that he thought it was funny that Delaware had a fifth year senior because when that player was starting college, Jalen Smith, Wiggins and the rest of the freshmen were only in eighth grade.
One of the major downfalls of previous Turgeon-era teams has been offensive play against the zone defense. That trend continued against Delaware, but Ayala did not seem too worried about this going forward.
“We practice against the zone everyday. We just have to execute our plays and be willing to shoot the ball better,” Ayala said.
Ayala also thought that the game was a good learning experience because it showed that they can win close games. He realizes that the team has a lot of talent, but there is a lot more work left to be done. Ayala stressed that the team wants to show that they are one of the best teams in the country.
Jalen Smith had about as good of an opener as a freshmen could have but said he was very nervous before the game, but that those nerves eased down the stretch even when the score got closer and closer.
“Before the game there were lots of butterflies, but the older guys helped calm me down and get me focused,” Jalen Smith said.
Jalen Smith stated further that he just wanted to play whatever role the team needed him to player, whether that was on offense or defense. He added that he thought all the other freshmen did a great job of contributing and playing the roles that needed to be played.
Maryland is back in action Friday in Annapolis against Navy in the Veterans classic. This group of freshmen will once again be leaned on heavily against the Midshipmen, just as they will for the entire season.