Morsell embracing his role as defensive stopper

By: Brittney Bridges

Darryl Morsell committed to the University of Maryland early November in 2016, just less than a month after visiting the campus. The unanimous four-star guard, hailing from Baltimore, came in during a period where his position was ultimately undecided.

With players like Kevin Huerter, Justin Jackson and other big components to Maryland’s offense still active on Maryland’s roster, it didn’t seem like Morsell would get a lot of the shine that came with being a Terrapin guard. On the contrary, he played in all 32 games for the Terps, including 21 starts.

He contributed on all fronts, averaging 8.7 points and 4.4 rebounds and even earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week around the 2017 Thanksgiving holiday. As his freshman season came to a close, Morsell suddenly went from the new guard on the team to being one of the most experienced players entering the 2018-19 season.

Coming into his sophomore season, Morsell’s main focus was to become better defensively; specifically after the five-point home loss to Virginia in which the Cavaliers shot almost 50 percent from the field.

“Players [at this level] are talented; you take away one thing, they have another thing that they can go to,” Morsell stated back in November about the difficulties of defending.

“It’s also tougher because I’m smaller,” Morsell continued.

Standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing just over 200 pounds, Morsell has been tasked with guarding bigs more than his own position. In past matchups, he’s had to guard players like Virginia’s 6-foot-7 center De’Andre Hunter.

Maryland’s first match up against the Purdue Boilermakers occurred a little more than a month ago, in the beginning of December. The two-point loss was disappointing, but nevertheless an impressive road performance that came up just short against a team that manages to remain solid every season.

In the second matchup, which came on Tuesday, the main task of the night for Morsell was going to be containing Purdue guard Carsen Edwards, who’s currently averaging just under 25 points per game. Though Edwards only had 20 points in the last meeting on 27 percent shooting, the Boilermakers were coming off of an eight game win streak.

Despite the slow start in the first half, Maryland’s defense bounced back to completely shut down Purdue. They made three of their last 20 shots and didn’t score in the final four minutes of regulation. After halftime, Edwards was held to just seven points in comparison to his 17 in the first. Much of this was a credit to the front-court defense of Morsell along with Anthony Cowan.

“Our defense was terrific,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “What [Morsell is] doing for our team is just as important as Anthony or Bruno scoring. And I think he’s accepted that.”

Morsell only added four points to the total score, in addition to three rebounds and three assists. But his defensive efforts on Tuesday night was one of the main highlights.

“I tried my best to make it tough for [Edwards],” Morsell stated. “My teammates helped me a lot.”

Edwards only made one layup, one 3-point shot and a pair of foul shots in the entire second half of play. He even finished with zero assists, when he averages roughly three. To get to his 24 points, Edwards had to take 27 shots.

“I kind of took it personal,” Morsell continued. “In order for this team to be successful, I have to be a lockdown defender… I’m just embracing it.”

Morsell and the Terrapins will have to keep this momentum going as they take on two top-25 teams on the road. Their next game will be against currently ranked No. 6 Michigan at Ann Arbor this Saturday at noon.

As the Terps prepare for the challenge, Morsell just hopes to continue thriving in his role for the team

“Defense wins games,” concluded Morsell. “That’s key for us.”