After two slow starts in their first two games, Maryland finally got off to a quick start in their 82-59 win over North Carolina A&T Tuesday night at the Xfinity Center.
“I was really proud of our guys, especially in the first half,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. “Second half we we weren’t mentally tough enough I don’t think to sustain it, but I did play a lot of people just to try to get more minutes and get guys comfortable.”
Two quick threes from the Aggies made it an 8-8 game with 16:53 left in the first half, but then, Bruno Fernando.
Eight straight points from the sophomore forward gave Maryland a 16-10 lead and they did not give up the lead for the rest of the game. All night long Fernando was getting whatever shot he wanted in the paint and he was cashing in on those open looks. Fernando ended the night shooting 7-10 with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
“Bruno [Fernando] had probably his best half since he’s been here,” Turgeon said. “I thought we executed well to get Bruno his shots near the basket.”
The only thing holding Fernando back this season will be his foul trouble, something he has now struggled with multiple times this season. He was subbed out early in the second half after recording his third foul.
“Bruno [Fernando] got into foul trouble and we weren’t as good defensively,” Turgeon said. “We have to learn how to be good when Bruno isn’t out there.”
He almost had a double-double in the first half, ending the half just one rebound shy but he made up for that quickly in the second half by grabbing the first rebound of the half.
“The guys were doing a great job finding me open,” Fernando said “I think I was doing a good job rebounding and getting second chance points and that’s really all it was.”
This was Maryland’s third starting line-up in as many games and Turgeon said he will keep experimenting with different players in different spots as the season goes on. Turgeon started Cowan, Morsell, Ayala, Smith and Fernando tonight.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with the starting lineup but I imagine Bruno and Anthony are going to be in it,” Turgeon said. “I want to try different things. Darryl responded to not starting last game so I had him back in there tonight. I think Aaron is more comfortable coming off the bench.”
Along with Fernando’s 17, four other Terps were in double figures tonight. Aaron Wiggins was right behind with 14, Cowan and Morsell both added 13 while Jalen Smith ended with 12 points and five rebounds.
Those five combined for 84 percent of Maryland’s points tonight.
Out of 31 baskets tonight, 24 came off of assists, and five Terps had at least four assists, showing how well they can share the ball. Now they just need to work on getting a more balanced game out of their offense.
“We’re a good passing team, it starts with Anthony [Cowan Jr.] and Eric [Ayala],” Turgeon said. “They do a great job and we’ve gotten better.”
Freshman guard Eric Ayala went scoreless tonight, but led the team with five assists. Cowan, Morsell, Wiggins and Lindo Jr. all added four assists as well.
Smith scored the first two buckets of the night and it was evident that Turgeon wants to run his offense through his two big men, Fernando and Smith.
While Maryland’s front court continues to dominate this season, the Terps shooting still left much to be desired after tonight’s game. Cowan, Morsell and Wiggins were all in double figures, but their shooting has to improve if they want to be successful in the Big Ten this season.
After only making 16.4 percent of their threes in their first two games, Maryland improved tonight against NC A&T, making 10-30 threes. Both Cowan and Wiggins made four three-pointers each.
Even with this improvement, there is still lots of work to be done if the Terps want to continue attempting such a large volume of threes, according to Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Turgeon said. “This is the best we played in our first three games.”
Outside of the five Terps in double figures, only Ricky Lindo Jr., Serrel Smith Jr. and Joshua Tomaic scored for Maryland tonight. Smith scored seven points, Lindo scored four and Tomaic added two on a jumper in the last minute of the game.
Lindo also added seven rebounds to go with his four points and four assists in a very well-rounded performance for the freshman.
“He came in the game and changed the game by rebounding and doing little things like that,” Fernando said. “He works hard and he listens to people and tries to get better everyday.”
At one point there were five freshmen out on the floor for Maryland and that is something Maryland fans will need to get used to, as five of the Terps top eight players in the rotation are freshman, Turgeon said.
“We keep growing but I want to be complete,” Turgeon said, “and I think we’re going to be pretty darn good.”
Maryland is back at the Xfinity Center Friday night against Hofstra at 7 p.m.
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