When you need clutch plays in key moments if you’re Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, the place to turn — even amidst star transfers and talented underclassmen — is still Eric Ayala.
“I think when he can get the ball in the middle of the floor, he’s really good and can get downhill,” Turgeon said
Down two with 20 seconds to go, the senior drove to the basket to score the tying layup and blocked a subsequent 3-point try by Hofstra’s Omar Silverio to help No. 20 Maryland avoid being upset for the second straight game, beating Hofstra on Friday, 69-67.
“We expected to win, even when we were down four late,” Turgeon said. “That’s how you come back and win. You’re not shooing jump shots.”
Ayala led all Maryland scorers with 14, while Fatts Russell and Ian Martinez added 13 each.
In that game-clinching sequence, Silverio fouled Martinez after his shot was blocked. With the Pride in the double-bonus, Martinez made both shots, and Russell stole an inbound with under three seconds remaining to secure the win.
Hofstra (1-3, 0-0 Colonial) was sparked by Jalen Ray, who led all scorers with 18. All five of his field goals were from 3-point range, including three in the final seven minutes of play. Half of the Pride’s 24 made field goals came from three.
“We knew they were going to make shots,” Turgeon said. “Those kids can make incredible shots, and they made them. They’re really hard to guard.”
Maryland (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten) used a smaller lineup for the second half. In an interesting move, Turgeon chose to sit 6-foot-11 forward Qudus Wahab, who had six first-half points and rebounds, for the rest of the game.
“I told Q at halftime, “This might not feel right, but I’m going small,” Turgeon said.
The 11th-year coach admitted it was something the Terrapins hadn’t practiced and that “it didn’t always look great.” But he chalked it up to an instinct gained from his basketball mentor.
“Tonight it’s the Larry Brown in me,” Turgeon said. “I had to figure out how to win the game.”
Maryland committed a season-high 16 turnovers, and Hofstra capitalized initially on those mistakes, converting five turnovers into eight points in the game’s first 10 minutes enroute to an early 18-16 lead.
Back-to-back Hakim Hart threes helped key an 8-0 Maryland run, but Hofstra responded with eight of the next nine points to take the lead back by four, 24-20, their largest of the first half.
That’s when Martinez kicked into gear. Off the bench, the sophomore scored seven straight Terrapin points, including a three and a fast-break dunk. Better defense from Maryland kept the Pride off the board for the final 2:39, and the Terrpins took a 31-34 lead into the break.
“I think everybody got into it today,” Martinez said of the Maryland defense. “We’re still making adjustments. We still have a lot left to get better, and we should be happy about that.”
“This is the Ian that we see everyday,” Russell said. “He’ll be shooting, he’ll be scoring. He’s a really great defender, and kind of showed the whole package today.”
As Maryland went smaller for the second half, they also used quick scoring to extend its lead. The Terrapins held Hofstra to a lone field goal over the first 5:04 of the second frame, and a Russell alley-oop to Donta Scott followed by a Julian Reese layup gave Maryland its largest lead at 42-35.
The teams traded baskets throughout the remainder of the game, with Hofstra taking a four-point lead on Ray’s final three. But in a game that featured 10 different lead changes, Maryland scored the game’s final six points to retake the lead and hold on.
“You know, we went back to the drawing board,” Russell said about Maryland trying to avoid another upset this week after falling to George Mason Wednesday. “We talked a lot about positive body language … uplifting your teammates, and I feel like today we did that.”