By: Eric Myers
Maryland players jogged into the halftime break trailing 37-31 and struggling to string together quality offensive possessions against Hofstra’s 2-3 zone.
After facing their first halftime deficit of the season, Maryland’s young team responded with a resounding second-half performance that led the Terps to a 80-69 win over the Pride on Friday night at the Xfinity Center.
“I thought the first half, they were the aggressor. They were the tougher team” Turgeon said. “I thought we responded well to the halftime talk and we played as a group on both ends.”
Coming into the game, Maryland has had some difficulties playing against zone defenses, most notably in the season opener when Delaware employed a zone that nearly brought the Blue Hens all the way back from a 22-point deficit.
“We’ve obviously got a lot of zone, so that’s what we’ve been practicing a lot,” point guard Anthony Cowan said. “Coach [Turgeon] has really been hitting it hard, really trying to put in a lot of different things to work through the zone.”
That trend continued in the first half when Maryland shot 40.6 percent from the field, 22 percent from the 3-point line and turned the ball over eight times.
The Maryland offense was further disrupted without the presence of Bruno Fernando inside, who accumulated two fouls in seven minutes. When Fernando was on the floor, he was clearly a force on the interior, making all three of his attempts inside the paint.
“Going into the locker room at halftime, coach just emphasized playing with more effort, just playing with more confidence, shooting the ball as if we’re going to make every shot and just playing together as a team,” freshman Aaron Wiggins said.
In the final 20 minutes, Maryland leaned on the contributions of Fernando, who played all 20 minutes in the second half, and Eric Ayala to come from behind and escape with their fourth consecutive win to begin the 2018-19 season.
Fernando finished the game shooting 8-8 from the field and added seven rebounds.
With Fernando imposing his will around the rim in the second half, the Pride were forced to send extra defenders to guard him, which opened up shots on the perimeter for Ayala and Wiggins. The two freshmen made all five of Maryland’s 3-point attempts in the second half.
“[Fernando’s] presence is always insane,” Wiggins said. “He’s able to get easy buckets and once he gets a few buckets, teams start trying to double him. So once they start doubling him, he’s able to kick out and we get open shots and if we hit open shots, that’s a dangerous team.”
Ayala scored 11 of his career-high 14 points in the second half and converted on three shots from the perimeter after coming into the game with no makes from beyond the 3-point line. One of his 3-point shots came with just over 15 minutes remaining to cap off a 7-0 run and give Maryland the lead at 47-44 for the first time since they led 18-16 midway through the first half.
Turgeon turned to the freshman for a career-high 31 minutes due to the impact he had on the game, especially in the second half.
“Eric’s a winner,” Turgeon said. “When we need him to make plays, he makes them and he did that tonight.”