Maryland survives sluggish first half, cruise to a big win over Catholic

Maryland men's basketball
Photo courtesy of UMTerps.com

By: Eric Myers

As Maryland’s students and players embark upon finals week, the Terps survived a first half test from Division-III Catholic University before pulling away in the second half to come away with a 76-59 win at the Xfinity Center Tuesday night.

Maryland, who was without three of its top contributors Bruno Fernando (ankle), Justin Jackson (shoulder soreness), and Dion Wiley (illness), struggled to a six point halftime lead before clicking on all cylinders in the first 10 minutes of the second half to open up its lead.

Catholic began the game by taking a 10-7 lead behind eight early points from senior Jay Howard– the Cardinals leading scorer with 18 points per contest. A visibly frustrated Mark Turgeon noticed that Catholic was the aggressor in the opening 10 minutes and his team did not come out with intensity.

“We didn’t come ready to play,” senior Jared Nickens said. “But that’s one of our weaknesses. We just have to come out and respect our opponent and be ready to play, and coach [Turgeon] told us that at halftime.”

Employing a zone defense the entirety of the first half, Catholic compensated for its height deficiency by clogging the paint and encouraging perimeter shots.

“Tonight I just didn’t think we could play man-to-man [defense] at all,” Catholic head coach Steve Howes said. “I felt like we had to [play zone], just try to jam Huerter and Nickens and if we gave up a dunk or two, that’s okay, it’s better than a three.”

Maryland was able to score 15 points from beyond the three-point line with Kevin Huerter and Jared Nickens each converting a pair of outside shots.

Maryland used a pair of 7-0 runs in the first half to take the lead and maintain its advantage.

Down 20-18 with nine minutes remaining before halftime, Joshua Tomaic, who is seeing extended playing time in lieu of Jackson’s absence, ignited the first of the two runs by scoring five points off the bench before a layup from Michal Cekovsky.

After Catholic tied the game at 27 with a three-pointer from Jimmy Golaszewski, Anthony Cowan attacked the zone defense by driving to the basket and finishing at the rim. Nickens capped off the scoring spurt with a three as Maryland took a 37-31 lead into halftime.

The Terrapins took control of the game in the second half as they opened an 18-point lead after a 16-4 run out of the break as Maryland knocked down four threes during the run that spanned over five minutes.

The Maryland lead climbed to 22 after Kevin Huerter came away with a steal and took the ball for an uncontested dunk on the other end as the Terps led 60-38 with just under twelve minutes remaining.

The Terps would cruise to a relatively easy win the rest of the way and the lead never fell below 16 points the remainder of the game. Cowan (18 points, seven assists), Huerter (14 points) and Nickens (14 points), all had strong performances to lead Maryland to a win.

Maryland will have an eight day break before its next game against Fairleigh Dickinson on Dec. 21. With the layoff, the Terps will focus on finals and practice as they hope to get healthy during that time.

“It’s super important [to get healthy],” Cowan said. “[With] Justin and Bruno out, our rebounding goes down a little bit. With Dion out, we need another person to make shots and make plays so we definitely need those three back.”

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