- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2020

COLLEGE PARK — When teams face a stellar defense like Rutgers, with its 12th-ranked KenPom defensive efficiency rating, points in the paint will come at a premium. So if you mix in some cold shooting around the arc and give the ball away now and again, your team might find itself without a single made shot for 11 minutes, pushing 12.

No. 9 Maryland found itself in that spot Tuesday night. In the second half, the Terrapins wrote the instruction booklet for how to get out of such a mess, and they were rewarded with a 56-51 win.

The first step is to just make one. Donta Scott did the honors with a run-of-the-mill fast-break layup two minutes and 20 seconds into the second half. The thousands of fans inside Xfinity Center responded with not a Bronx cheer, but sincere enthusiasm; some students began to bang on their seats in approval.

Which leads to step two: energy. Scoring begot scoring. On Maryland’s next possession, Darryl Morsell bounded into the lane and leapt up for a dunk — not usually part of the junior’s skill set.

“I don’t want to say ‘never,’ but that’s a rare occasion, Dunking Darryl,” said teammate and friend Jalen Smith, who followed it up three minutes later with a thunderous dunk of his own. “So it just hyped the whole crowd up and we went on from there.”

There’s a third step, according to Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon: Don’t forget the other end of the floor, and let defense lead to offense.

“We really guarded in that stretch, too. We were great defensively,” he recounted. “We had energy. I just told them when (Rutgers) called timeout, I said, ‘I love layups. I love layups. Just keep getting layups.’ … So (we) got out on the break, got some layups, offense moved better and got some stuff there.”

In simplest terms, that’s how the Terrapins failed to make a field goal for 11:41 of game time, put that stretch behind them and come back to beat upstart Rutgers by five.

Smith finished with 14 points, 15 rebounds and a career-high six blocks. Anthony Cowan led with 17 points and Morsell added 14.

Rutgers didn’t quit in the second half, scoring eight straight points to tie the game at 47 with less than four minutes to go. Cowan made five free throws on two late possessions to eke Maryland ahead, and Smith swatted away a late Rutgers layup try to help seal the game.

Both Turgeon and Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell opened their postgame press conferences by calling it a “great college basketball game” — “if you like defense,” Turgeon added. Maryland shot 34% from the field and Rutgers only made 33.8%.

In the days leading up to the Rutgers game, the Terrapins’ 10th-year coach stressed a return to defensive principles after allowing 72 points in a win over then-No. 18 Iowa. His players responded.

“I’m just glad we’re finding different ways to win,” Morsell said. “Last game against Iowa we scored 80-some points and found a way to win an up-and-down game. Today was a street fight. It was real physical, a lot of fouls and stuff like that. We scored — what did we score, 56, and we found a way to win.”

The Terrapins’ field goal drought began after Ricky Lindo Jr. made a layup with 9:21 to play in the first half. They shot 0-for-13, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range, and gave away seven turnovers in the next 11:41. Rutgers played tight defense in the lane and kept batting the ball out of Maryland’s grasp, while Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala each missed twice from long range.

But Morsell had one of the worst first halves of any Terrapin, with two turnovers and 1-for-5 shooting.

“At halftime I got challenged,” he said. “Coach Turgeon challenged me, Anthony challenged me, Coach (DeAndre) Haynes challenged me. I don’t know what was going on in the first half. I’m missing layups — the rim’s blocking my layups and stuff like that.”

Yet during all this, Rutgers failed to run away with the game. For one stretch of 3:43 late in the first half, neither team scored. Smith controlled the paint on defense, and the Scarlet Knights took just a 25-20 lead into halftime. So Turgeon gave his players a message of confidence.

“I think we’re too late in the season to be hanging our heads on missed shots,” Turgeon said. “We’ve missed them all year, guys. Quit hanging our heads. Let’s just battle. That was the disappointing part of the first half. Second half we didn’t hang our heads.”

Akwasi Yeboah led the Scarlet Knights with 13 points, including three early 3-pointers that helped build Rutgers‘ initial lead. But Rutgers went 0-for-8 from behind the arc in the second half, and Maryland shut them down inside as well.

The Scarlet Knights failed to score in the final 1:58.

“It’s on me at the end, so I take 100% responsibility,” Pikiell said. “We gotta make sure we get some good looks. I thought we had a couple. But we just gotta keep plugging. This is our journey this year for our team, and I love it.”

The Terrapins’ schedule is just heating up. They visit No. 20 Illinois on Friday.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide