By: Brittney Bridges
The Maryland men’s basketball team opened their 2018-2019 season with an exhibition game against the Lynn Fighting Knights. Despite the Fighting Knights being a Division II team, this wasn’t the first time both teams have met; Maryland previously led the series 3-1 with the only loss occuring when Maryland basketball first was introduced back in 1910. The Terps came out on top once again with a final score of 100-67.
With the departures of key players like Kevin Huerter, Jared Nickens, Justin Jackson, Michal Cekovsky and Dion Wiley, Maryland had many shoes to fill. The Terrapins had only three starters return including junior Anthony Cowan and sophomores Bruno Fernando and Darryl Morsell.
Fernando decided to return to College Park after partaking in the NBA combine. He was named to the All Big Ten Freshman team last season and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice in his debut season.
Cowan also returns as the Terps most experienced player and overall leader. He averaged 15.8 points per game last season as a sophomore along with leading the Big Ten in minutes played at minutes per game.
One thing that was apparent were the new faces that got plenty of time on Tuesday night. Head coach Mark Turgeon, who enters his 8th season as Maryland head coach, welcomed six freshmen to the roster. The freshman are Jalen Smith, Aaron Wiggins, Eric Ayala, Serrel Smith Jr., Ricky Lindo Jr., and Trace Ramsey, who come in at No. 7 recruiting class in the nation. The only freshman in the exhibition who didn’t see time was Ramsey.
The starters for the game were Cowan, Morsell, Wiggins, Smith and Fernando. Wiggins and Smith came to Maryland being one of the most anticipated players to watch this season. Wiggins was named the No. 3 player coming out of the state of North Carolina and No. 9 forward in the nation, according to ESPN. Smith, hailing from Baltimore, snagged all kinds of honors including being a two-time Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year.
The two freshmen seemed to have no issues adjusting to collegiate play as they looked right at home. Wiggins appeared to be very comfortable and effective as he got multiple baskets off of rebounds and showed he wasn’t afraid to shoot from behind the arc, as he knocked down two of his five attempts.
Smith showed versatility both in the paint and shooting from the outside. The 6-foot-10 big man even knocked down a couple of three pointers as Lynn couldn’t contain his imposing stature. Smith led the way in scoring with 22 points, followed by Wiggins who added 14. Cowan and Fernando both contributed 13 points and Morsell added 12.
Maryland pressed for most of the first half, causing the Fighting Knights to commit 11 turnovers, though it felt like more. The lengthy arms of almost all of the players led to multiple fast breaks and easy points for the Terps. Maryland also found success when it came to quick ball rotation and driving in order to free up a wing for an open shot. They went into the half up by 18 points despite some sloppy, offensive errors specifically when it came to passing the ball into the paint.
One thing that we did see was Cowan get frequent, longer breaks as guards Ayala, Reese Mona or Wiggins stepped in. Though Ayala didn’t start, he had a significant amount of minutes and proved to be a reliable ball handler and facilitator. The No. 22 ranked point guard in the country chose Maryland over offers from Miami, Syracuse and Arizona. He finished with nine points and three assists.
The Terrapins came into the second half much cleaner as they scored eight points in just over two minutes. They stretched the lead even further as time wound down. Turgeon even rotated more players off the bench, often spicing up the lineups. Despite the result, one question that still remains is how this young team will perform against opponents of a higher caliber.
Maryland came in a couple votes short of making the AP Preseason Top 25 Poll. The Terps placed 7th in the Big Ten Preseason Poll behind some of their traditional rivals like Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin– all of whom are ranked in the top 25.
Though Tuesday night’s matchup wasn’t the most challenging opening game ever, it gave Maryland fans a sneak peak at what is to come this season. The Terrapins have their regular-season opener Tuesday, November 6, when they welcome Delaware to the Xfinity Center at 7:30 p.m.