Maryland men’s basketball shows depth in a impressive season opening win over Quinnipiac

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Freshman Julian Reese made sure his presence was felt. And when he notched seven points in seven minutes, his play thrilled the fans that packed Xfinity Center. 

After an exciting showcase throughout the teams first exhibition, Reese began his season debut with a thunderous block. The score was 18-8 and near the half’s midpoint when Reese’s swat slammed the ball off the glass. The Terps remained ahead by 10 points because of the freshman’s loud rejection and held that double-digit lead for the rest of the game. 

The crowd shot up in excitement, his sister and Maryland women’s basketball athlete, Angel Reese jeered in support and Maryland asserted its dominance. The fall basketball rust was glaring, but No. 21 Maryland dug through its deep bench of role players and potential stars to capture  a 83-69 victory over Quinnipiac on Tuesday. 

“It was great to have fans back, have some students there tonight,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “I told the players, ‘we’re up 20 something with five to go and we haven’t played our best ….’ that’s encouraging moving forward.” 

Depth is a luxury that Turgeon never truly had with his six man rotations of years past. As the first half continued and his starters needed rest, Turgeon dug deeper on the bench. Before the Terps boasted a comfortable two-digit lead, 10 of his athletes graced the court. 

Reese headlined the bench play with a total of 11 points and seven rebounds and Ian Martinez took a back seat role as the second unit’s defensive-minded point guard. The Terps new Baltimore-bred big man mainly found his success in the first half and, outside of a slew of low post finishes, had a chance to hit his first jumpshot and display his range. 

“[Reese] is really good,” Turgeon said, “I don’t know … he’s in traffic and all of a sudden he’s by the rim. It’s pretty unique what he’s able to do.” 

Martinez connected with Donta Scott on a lively alley-oop play to give Maryland its first 20 point lead and pushed the pace when Fatts Russell was off the court. The Utah transfer ended with eight points after an eventful second half where he registered a three and a steal. 

Green, another defensive role player, was formidable at the defensive end and Pavlo Dziuba also managed to hit his first shot on his first touch with a three. 

Meanwhile, the starters took on a more offensive role. In a slow first half that included 10 turnovers, eight assists and an initial field goal percentage that began in the 30-40% range, Eric Ayala, who’s sixth point gave him his 1,000th career point, and Russell led the charge with a combined 14 points by the time the half had ended.

“It makes it easier for me to have somebody who can get in the paint whenever he want to and create [offense] for us,” Ayala said of Russell, “Last year we didn’t have that. And it allows me to play my role and play basketball.” 

The second half was dominated by the front court starters, as Qudus Wahab and Donta Scott accounted for 13 of the teams first 20 points. At the final buzzer, the starters finished with four double-digit scorers. 

“I think we have seven starters,” Turgeon said. “Those five are the ones that start the games.”

After Reese’s block and the Martinez and Scott lob connection, the Terps protected an impenetrable double-digit lead that was never really threatened. With slow points and clear early season jitters that included turnovers, poor fouls and other errors, the starters shined offensively but the bench provided apt support.