Maryland showed its depth and balance in a season-opening 95-71 win over Holy Cross.
The Terps overcame a frigid 3-point shooting night and overwhelmed the Crusaders after a slow start, offering the first glimpse of the deep, large and athletic roster that has Mark Turgeon’s team ranked No. 7. Jalen Smith led the way with 16 points and 11 rebounds, but it was his former high school teammate who arguably had the best night of anyone. Junior guard Darryl Morsell came off the bench — a surprise move after he seemed cemented into the starting lineup — and filled up the box score with 15 points, five rebounds, four assist and three steals.
Anthony Cowan (12 points, five assists), and Eric Ayala (12) also reached double-figure for the Terps. Instant reactions below.
Morsell shines off the bench … Morsell has started for much of his career at Maryland, including 31 of 33 games last season. So it was a surprise to see him on the bench when the game started, effectively replaced in the lineup by Ayala, who joined Cowan, Smith, Aaron Wiggins and Ricky Lindo in the starting five. Whether it was extra motivation of not starting or otherwise, Morsell was primed. He took over the game after checking in almost six minutes into the game and immediately titled the game in Maryland’s favor after a slow start.
First, he anticipated an outlet pass, stole the ball and and dunked to give Maryland a 23-22 lead. On Holy Cross’ next possession, he drew an offensive foul. Moments later, he knocked down a free throw-line jumper and snagged a defensive rebound. After a Holy cross timeout and basket, Morsell struck again with a tip-in. With that, Maryland had taken over the game. He made five of seven shots and produced one of his best performances in a Maryland uniform. The question: will he stay in the sixth-man role? His aggressive playing style and energy could make him the prototypical guy in that role.
He’s also visibly improved as a passer since late last season and dropped off a couple of pretty assists.
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Terps push the pace … A game against an overmatched Patriot League team isn’t enough to make any conclusion, but it seems like this might be the year Mark Turgeon pushes the pace. he’s been promising to during the offseason, and his team looked to run early and often tonight — a big reason they approached the 100-point mark despite laying bricks all night from 3-point range. And they did it without coughing the ball up much, finishing with just eight turnovers against 15 assists. That’s fewer turnovers than they posted in all but two games last season.
If they’re going to run and gun, Cowan (five assists, two turnovers) will need to be pass on some shots he might have taken in past years on the fast break and the secondary break. And he was tonight, looking for alley-oops and spot-up shooters regularly while moving into ninth place on the school’s all-time assist list.
Holy Cross freshman Drew Lowder gave Cowan some problems defensively. But it was an otherwise solid night for the senior starter in his return to the starting lineup after coming off the bench in Maryland’s exhibition against Fayetteville State. Maryland’s pace — along with its glaring size advantage — helped the Terps shoot 65.3 percent on two-point shots and score 22 fastbreak points.
It didn’t go as well from 3-point range … You can probably chalk it up to opening game rust or just one of those nights but Maryland was ice cold outside the arc, shooting 5 of 27. Serrell Smith knocked down two of three off the bench, while Maryland’s starters went 1-for-19. It was an especially rough night for sophomore wing guard Aaron Wiggins, who missed all six of his. Wiggins had a nightmarish start to the second half, missing two wide open threes, coming up short on his jump on one alley-oop and then dropping another one. This won’t be one Wiggins looks back upon warmly, but he did show improved defense, notching career-highs of three blocks and three steals; as a freshman last year, he never posted more than one steal or block in any game.
Freshmen impress … If Maryland’s freshmen are growing on you after a couple of showings, you’re not alone. Donta Scott continued to look like he’ll be a key piece, especially on nights when Wiggins is off or a more physical presence is needed. He finished with nine points and six rebounds, making four of his six shows in 17 minutes. His aggressive, physical style is a nice complement to Maryland’s finesse guys. Makhi Mitchell (six points) was also solid, highlighted by a textbook outlet pass and a pretty lefthanded drive and finger roll from the top of the key.
Next up … Maryland hosts Rhode Island on Saturday.
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