By: Eddie Hobbs
The Terrapins found themselves up by just four points after Anthony Cowan split two free throws with 1:07 remaining in regulation. Delaware had the ball and were looking to cut deeper into Maryland’s lead as Kevin Anderson cut into the paint looking for a layup.
Freshman Jalen “stix” Smith slid over to block Anderson’s shot to solidify a 73-67 win for the Terps, as the team opened their 100th season on a high note.
“My man moved out of the lane, and I knew I had to protect it,” Smith said. “So I just jumped up and I happened to get it.”
Darryl Morsell got the Xfinity Center crowd fired up in the opening minutes, knocking down his first 3-pointer of the season to get Maryland on the board. Morsell made just three 3-pointers all of last season, but worked to improve this part of his game in the offseason.
Cowan then had a nice put-back layup on the ensuing possession and Bruno Fernando sent Collin Goss’s layup back to Delaware with an emphatic block within the first two minutes, setting a tone on the defensive end to start the game.
Turgeon implemented a new-look defense as well, employing a full-court press to stimey Delaware early on. This is somewhat of a different look, but could be Turgeon testing out some new things in the early going of the season.
It was obvious from the jump that Fernando was the most dominant player on the court for Maryland, and Delaware struggled to contain the sophomore front-court player.
He led Maryland with 11 points in the half and was looking to continue his dominance in the second half, but foul trouble would plague the big man as he picked up his fourth foul with 10:02 remaining in the game. He wasn’t inserted back into the lineup until 4:10 left, but quickly picked up his fifth foul.
Maryland led by as many as 22 points in the second half, but struggled to make shots in the second half to put the game away. The Terps made just 29 percent on their shots in the final 20 minutes, and none of those made shots were 3-pointers.
Aaron Wiggins, who is looking to fill the shoes of Kevin Huerter on the wing, struggled in the first game of the season, going just 1-of-8 from the field, and 1-of-6 from deep. But just because his shot wasn’t on, didn’t mean that he wasn’t impactful.
The freshman grabbed seven rebounds, stole the ball five times and added three assists to his stat line. Wiggins even stayed on the court longer than any other Maryland player with 36 minutes on the night.
Delaware’s Eric Carter led all scorers with 29 points and was the main catalyst for the Blue Hens’ comeback in the second half.
“Carter was terrific for them, they played through him, it was tough,” Turgeon said. “They made some shots, got confident and then we just couldn’t make a shot against the zone.”
Even with Carter’s immaculate game, Delaware hit just 2-of-12 field goals to end the second half, and went 0-of-4 on their last four possessions to prevent them from taking the lead late.
It wasn’t just Delaware who struggled from the field, Maryland also couldn’t hit anything. The Terps didn’t hit a field goal in the last 3:24 of regulation, but closed the game out on the defensive end.
“We want to win close games, we got a lot of character out of tonight, we figured out some identity stuff that we needed to figure out,” freshman guard Eric Ayala said.