Feature photo courtesy of Lauren Anikis/Stories Beneath the Shell.
The American Bison was pushed near extinction in the United States about 150 years ago.
Conservation efforts have rescued the species, but Wednesday night the Howard Bison couldn’t be saved.
Maryland wiped out Howard 79-56, delivering its best shooting night of the year. The Terps shot 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from downtown.
Michal Cekovsky started in place of an injured Damonte Dodd, who sprained his MCL in practice Monday, and made the most of his opportunity. Cekovsky led all Maryland scorers with 16 points on mostly rim-rocking slams.
For the fourth time this year, Cekovsky posted double-digit scoring numbers. His emergence as an offensive threat has given the Terps the inside scoring it lost after Diamond Stone entered the NBA draft in June.
“Ceko was moving toward being a starter the way he was playing,” Mark Turgeon said.
Cekovsky said he’s growing into his role.
“I’m feeling more comfortable on defense and offense. I’m getting better every game,” he said.
If there’s anyone Turgeon drills the hardest, he said it’s Cekovsky.
“He probably hears my voice in his sleep,” Turgeon said.
The Slovakian big man knows Turgeon wants what’s best for him.
“He cares about me,” Cekovsky said. “He knows what he’s doing, so when he’s yelling at me, he’s pushing me.”
Ivan Bender made his return after missing one game with a bone bruise on his left knee. He didn’t greatly impact the box score, but he provided Turgeon with 17 meaningful minutes to help Cekovsky shoulder the burden.
“In our zone offense, he knows where our players are when he’s on the post,” Cekovsky said of Bender. “When he has the ball, I feel like he’s the most confident guy on the team with that zone.”
Jaylen Brantley played one the best games of his college career Saturday against Oklahoma State, and his momentum hasn’t stopped. The reserve guard scored 14 points and Turgeon trusted him with the ball-handling duties midway through the second half.
Confidence has been the difference for Brantley.
“I feel like I belong now,” Brantley said.
Despite the score, the Terps couldn’t make quick work of Howard. Through the first 11 minutes, Maryland was 4-of-12 from three and only attempted three 2-pointers. The poor shooting allowed Howard to hang around, and with 5:31 remaining in the opening half, the Bison led 24-23.
Their lead didn’t last long. Maryland stood tall defensively, forcing three Howard turnovers in a little over a minute and a half.
The Terps took back the lead with an 11-0 run over the next two minutes and 19 seconds. But the Bison came back and cut that lead down to seven at the half.
Turgeon said his game plan was to play inside out, but in the first half his team wasn’t following it. He had to set them straight at halftime.
“I had to go in at halftime, I had to yell,” Turgeon said. “Coach Warren watched every game, this is the key of the game, so why aren’t we doing this?”
The speech was the kick Maryland needed. Maryland came out of the gates hot and didn’t look back. The Terps shot 7-of-15 from three, blowing the Bison out without attempting a single free throw in the closing period.
Howard coach Kevin Nickelberry wasn’t upset in his postgame press conference.
“There’s a reason Maryland’s 9-1,” Nickelberry said.
Maryland will play Saint Peter’s Saturday at noon.
Edited by Austin Kleber.