What was supposed to be an early season tune-up, quickly evolved into a game two primer. The shots weren’t falling and the No. 21 Terps got their first taste of adversity against an eager George Washington squad.
A Qudus Wahab buzzer beating slam, closed a period he carried. His then game-high 10th point and the second half’s final bucket was a fast-break poster over a George Washington defender, but it was far from indicative of the play that Maryland had endured for the first 20 minutes.
The Terps edged out George Washington in its first full 40 minute game of the season. After catching stride, there was little the visiting side could do to halt the momentum and No. 21 Maryland eked out a, 71-64, win over the unranked Revolutionaries.
“[George Washington] competed and played their tails off. They were really good,” head coach Mark Turgeon said, “they did a lot of great things so you gotta give them a lot of credit … the guys found a way to win.”
Unusually, it was a bit of low-post fallibility that fueled the visitors’ success. When 15 minutes passed in the opening frame, Maryland faced a 18-21 deficit and accumulated just seven field goals. Meanwhile, of the 21 points the Revolutionaries jumped out with, 18 were scored at the rim. George Washington finished the half with 24 of its 30 points in the paint.
“We need to play better defense, we need to talk more,” Wahab said “ And also move the ball better because we didn’t really shoot the ball well.”
And despite Maryland’s best efforts, there was no stopping the offensive paint pressure. At one point, Turgeon employed a massive Wahab and Julian Reese front court lineup. Short-lived and unsuccessful, the twin tower duo did little to stem the tide and give Maryland a lead, but Wahab and Eric Ayala’s combined 18 first half points helped the Terps exit an otherwise ugly half with a 38% field goal percentage, down, 29-30.
“It’s good to score baskets around the rim. [Wahab is] really good at it,” Turgeon said, “I felt like he got a lot of big rebounds. didn’t protect the rim like I wanted him to but he will in time. But we’re still getting there, you know?”
The threes weren’t falling for Maryland either. After going 0-9 in the first half and missing 13 straight, Donta Scott’s three pointer with 15 minutes left in the contest was the team’s first. The Terps ended with a 3-20 mark from the arc.
“I just think we were thinking too much,” Wahab said of the shooting woes.
Fortunately for the Terps, as they drove to an 8-0 run to start the final half, the visitors failed to prompt the same results they did in the opening 20 minutes. This time, just 12 total points in the paint were scored in the half by George Washington.
Wahab, of course, accounted for four of Maryland’s eight points in the run. The work he enjoyed in the restricted area helped him finish with an impressive 18 points and 15 boards in his second game. Both statistics were team highs.
As the second half ticked away and the tired legs of George Washington’s limited rotation grew evident, the 8-0 run proved to be the deciding blow. The Terps rode their moderate lead to the final buzzer behind a more concerted offensive effort in which Scott, Wahab and Fatts Russell each dropped at least seven points.
“[George Washington] came out aggressive and we weren’t ready for it,” Russell said, “in the second half we matched their intensity.”
There were down moments, such as the lower-body injury Scott sustained midway through the half and the nail-biter that lasted through the final three minutes (Maryland saw its lead reduce to as little as three points.) But Scott returned after taking a brief rest on the bench and a late Rusell three-point dagger iced the contest.
“There’s many times I thought we could have extended the lead and put the game away,” Turgeon said, “whether it was missed free throws or missing threes or missing things around the rim. So and then we just kind of, you know, we broke down a little bit defensively.”