Eric Hayes faces Sean Mosley in practice every day, so mentioning both the Maryland freshman and daily basketball work produces an intriguing response.
Hayes’ wry smile alludes to the bruises he leaves Comcast Center with all the time, his voice offering a hint of the you-don’t-even-want-to-know wariness that comes from regularly facing the Baltimore native.
After Saturday, Charlotte can appreciate Hayes’ pain. And if the Terrapins are fortunate, soon too will the ACC.
Mosley scored a career-high 11 points, helping erase an early double-digit deficit as Maryland upended Charlotte 85-75 to extend its winning streak to seven. Greivis Vasquez had 27 points for the Terps (11-2), who received a vital boost from the bench to remain perfect at home this season.
“This was kind of Sean’s breakout game, and hopefully he can keep it going for the rest of the year,” said reserve Cliff Tucker, who added eight points in 10 minutes. “The starters were kind of sluggish today starting off, so when me and Sean got in the game, it sparked the team. Once we got going, the starters got in and started to play well.”
The Terps needed something to save them early on from the 49ers (5-7), who unleashed a potent perimeter barrage in the first half. That something turned out to be Mosley, who was on track to start during the preseason before suffering a sprained ankle in late October.
The injury set him back, leaving him in a reserve role and spoiling the timing of his offensive game. Assistant coaches urged him to take more shots during practice in the hopes of dispelling a chilly 27.1 percent performance from the floor.
“It made me fall behind a little bit,” he said. “Now I have rhythm, and now my teammates trust me on the perimeter and it feels good.”
It helps for Mosley, who ranks second in Maryland high school history in scoring, to post his first double-digit scoring game of his college career. He erased what remained of an 11-point deficit with a tying 3-pointer late in the first half, and his four offensive rebounds permitted a few opportunities around the basket.
The Terps finally took the lead for good while Mosley was on the bench. Just after Charlotte’s Charles Dewhurst drove for a layup to make it 49-49, he fell to the floor with a right knee injury. Maryland quickly pounced, rattling off a 16-0 run. Mosley was on the court for much of it, drilling a 3-pointer to make it 62-49 and moments later picking off a pass before sending an outlet to Vasquez for a layup.
That’s Mosley’s skill set - a little of just about everything, with plenty of aggressiveness packed into his 6-foot-4 frame.
“I know the guys on the first team don’t like to play against him,” coach Gary Williams said. “He’s very physical. He plays every day in practice like he did out there today. You notice who the first team doesn’t mind going against and the guys who bother the first team.”
Tucker enjoyed a similar day, albeit in less than half as much time. But the big days from the backups were significant for a team with a recent history of wilting in the second half because of depth issues.
It was the Terps’ burden a season ago, when frittered leads became an all-too-common occurrence and ensured a third NIT appearance in four years. But Saturday, the opposite unfolded: Maryland simply shrugged off a slow start and an opponent’s strong shooting, wearing the 49ers down with the help of Mosley and Tucker.
“It makes us so much better because a lot of teams lack that bench,” forward Landon Milbourne said. “I think that might have been what helped us get that win tonight.”