Julian Reese and Fatts Russell were the game’s liveliest athletes. At the point guard position and at the center, Maryland men’s basketball showcased its brand new contributors.
In front of fans for the first time since March of 2020, Maryland readily handled its lone exhibition competitor of the preseason. The full-frontal, 89-40, victory was a perfect preview of what the Terps hope to bring at two positions they’ve lacked since fans last stood in Xfinity Center.
“The guys did a nice job,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “It was just a good night, everybody got to play — wasn’t what I expected — but it was good.”
When Turgeon opted for a platoon swap just five minutes into the game, his effort to get a feel for his team’s depth was clear. The starters, Russell, Eric Ayala, Hakim Hart, Donta Scott and Qudus Wahab, hadn’t produced anything of note, shooting 2-7 from the field, and Fayetteville State held strong.
The swap that brought on a brand new five of Reese, Ian Martinez, Pavlo Dziuba, James Graham III and Xavier Green was intended to bring a needed spark; it instead was an ample opportunity for Reese to display what Maryland had missed for a year.
Reese quickly registered six points in four minutes during an impressive bounceback effort led by the Broncos’ Jalen Seagers. But with the Terps holding just a 15-16 lead and Reese earning his second foul, Turgeon went back to the starting lineup. Reese returned later in the half and played some minutes in the second half while getting caught in foul trouble, but he managed to finish with 16 points in 14 minutes.
“[Reese] is really good. You can tell from today he’s gonna be good when the season starts,” Wahab said.
Following the second line swap, Russell exhibited some of the point guard play that Maryland had also missed last season. The Rhode Island transfer was as quick and impactful as he was advertised throughout the preseason on his second go on the court — providing the Terps with the production to build unstoppable momentum.
The clock read 8:49 when Russell took the court. After snagging a steal, hitting a frantic fadeaway three and an and-one layup on the subsequent offensive possession, the clock showed 7:34. Fayetteville used a timeout but the Terps continued to apply pressure and the 21-15 lead that Russell had helped manufacture quickly ballooned to a 20 point lead at the end of the half.
“[Russell]’s been doing it since he got here,” Turgeon said, “and he might be as complete a guy that I’ve had in a while. He can do it on both ends.”
Reese ended the first half leading the Terps with 10 points and Russell was a close second with seven of his own. At point guard, Martinez brought some promising play off the bench, with an expected brand of gritty defense. The Utah transfer totaled two blocks, two steals and five points. Wahab, the starting center, who took some time to get his feet under him, scored 12 points, adding to the front court domination Maryland hadn’t been privy to in over a season.
“Well Q’s done it before in the Big East … he’s a good player,” Turgeon said. “And [Reese] showed you that he can be really good. He’s got great hands, he can finish around the basket, he’s a great presence.”
Even without the fully realized services of their top scorer, Eric Ayala, and their springy veteran forward, Donta Scott — who both combined for 15 points on 26% shooting — the Terps quickly took a 30 and eventual 40 point lead by the end of the contest.