Once Maryland men’s basketball got going, there was no stopping the flow of the offense.
The contest began with whistles and stoppages and continued with a sputtering Terp offense until Maryland exploded for a decisive 13-0, second half run.
After a designed handoff play got Hakim Hart to the rim to start the run, seemingly everyone got going. Donta Scott hit the Terps’ first three of the game and Fatts Russell darted through the defense in the following offensive possession to take the lead.
Russell’s double-clutch layup — and the subsequent eight points of the commanding 13-point run that included four different scorers — granted Maryland a lead it held until the final buzzer.
“We just found our chemistry by playing inside-out,” Hart said. “We got a lot of players that play with power finish at the rim with ease. That just makes it easier. ‘One more kick, one more kick, open shot’ — stuff like that.”
As Eric Ayala, Hart, Scott and Russell, continued to pile on points — each ended with 15 or more points — in the initial 13-point run and afterwards, a new case for Maryland’s resilience was being solidified.
“For us to close out the month on a three-game win streak will give us confidence going into Big Ten play,” interim head coach Danny Manning said. “And that’s just a testament to the willpower and desire of our guys going out there and wanting to make something happen.”
Stalling and struggling against a gritty Brown (8-7) team for the first 20 minutes, Maryland (8-4, 0-1 B1G) dominated for the final 20, earning its eighth win of the season on a, 81-67, scoreline.
As the game began, it was clear Brown had no interest in being a pushover. It got to the line and drew fouls and sucked the fluidity from the game, disallowing any rhythm from the Terps.
It was a brand of basketball that the Bears were comfortable with, but Maryland was out of its element. It’s 37% and 0% clip from the field and three, respectively, was enough to indicate the Terps were off. Brown earned 13 first half chances at the charity stripe because of their gritty low post offense and fouled Maryland a resounding 15 times in the first half on the other end.
The Terps were fortunate enough to be aided by the services of Fatts Russell who, in spite of his banged-up knee, slashed to the basket with the same verve that he boasted prior to his injury against Lehigh. Russell’s speedy five-point, first half-closing effort allowed Maryland to power its way to a reasonable four-point, 39-35, halftime deficit after it faced a daunting seven-point disadvantage.
“That’s nice for him because his speed just makes our tempo a lot faster,” Hart said of Russell’s quick return to form.
Going into the break, Maryland had plenty to clean up to avoid another non-conference upset. The Terps bench had been held scoreless, the starting front court, Qudus Wahab and Scott, was in foul trouble and they had no answer for Brown’s Tamenang Choh, who got to the free throw line with ease and led both teams with 18 first half points.
The bench totaled just two points after another half of play and Choh added to his first half performance with seven more points in the second half, but Maryland had an answer for its floundering offense.
The aforementioned foursome of Hart, Russell, Ayala, and Scott, this time, had the second half response the Terps desperately needed and fed off each other and rediscovered the fluidity that had been absent to start. And in the closing half, the Terps shot an improved 50% from three and 60% from the floor.
At one point, Russell threw a lob to Hart for two. At another, Ayala used a set of elevator screens to open up the paint and find the bottom of the net. Russell and Ayala played some isolation basketball, too. Ayala faded and worked his way to a team-high 22 points and Russell sized up and cut his way to an efficient 18. Scott and Hart finished with 15 and 17, respectively.
“The sky’s the limit for us. We’re really talented,” Russell said. “Our main thing was just figuring out how we’re gonna put all this together. And I feel like the last couple of games, we’re trending in the right direction.”