Article by Brandon Simberg
The Maryland men’s basketball defeated Hofstra 80-67 on Friday night at the Xfinity Center. Here are five takeaways from the game.
Bruno benched (temporarily)
For the fourth time in four games, the Terrapins started with a different starting lineup. However, this time it was star big man Bruno Fernando not starting for the Terps, as senior Ivan Bender took his place in a somewhat shocking move. Fernando quickly entered the contest three and a half minutes in, and made an instant impact. He finished as the Terps leading scorer with 17 points on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting. When asked about the decision to bring Fernando off the bench, Turgeon said he was teaching him a “life lesson”. Whatever that may be, don’t expect Fernando to come off the bench for long
Tale of two halves
After playing their worst half of basketball all season, the Terrapins trailed 37-31 at halftime. However, the next twenty minutes were a much different story. Led by freshmen Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala, the Terps had their best offensive half of the season, scoring 49 points. Wiggins hit three three pointers and Ayala scored 11 of his career high 14 points in the second half to retake and then extend the lead.
Another noticeable change in the second half was rotations. Ivan Bender, Serryl Smith Jr., and Ricky Lindo, who all played in the first half, barely saw the court in the second. Coach Turgeon stuck with a six man rotation and it paid off. Anthony Cowan, Darryl Morsell, and Ayala all logged season highs in minutes. Obviously Turgeon wants to get everybody reps in these less competitive non conference games, but it will be interesting to see if those bench contributors can find serious minutes once Big 10 play rolls around.
Maryland got scoring from all over tonight, as six players were in double figures. Jalen Smith had a quiet 11 points, but also showed off his passing with four assists. Darryl Morsell was in double figures for the third straight game, as he scored 12, and was all over the floor on both ends. The bouncy Morsell just missed a putback dunk that got the whole crowd on their feet in the second half. The Terps have players like Fernando, Smith and Cowan that are going to produce for them every night, but it is the role players like Wiggins, Ayala and Morsell who are going to be the x-factors. If those three can hit shots and defend like they did in the second half, Maryland will continue to have success.
Anthony Cowan locking up
Cowan was given the defensive assignment of guarding Justin Wright-Foreman, who was averaging 25 points per game coming in. Despite being smaller, Cowan did a great job defensively. He constantly applied ball pressure and forced Wright-Foreman into tough jumpers. Despite finishing with 27 points, Wright-Foreman missed 10 shots and turned the ball over four times. A lot of that should be attributed to Cowan who finished with a season-high four steals. Morsell also did a good job when switched onto Wright-Foreman, using his length and athleticism.
Hofstra could be dangerous in March
Hofstra could not pull out a win, but they were very impressive in defeat. Wright-Foreman is one of the better point guards in the country. His ability to hit tough shots off the dribble, attack the basket, and dish out to shooters was super impressive. The Pride are a team that won 19 games last year and now return many veterans. Playing in the Colonial Conference, they are likely going to need to win the conference tournament to qualify for the NCAA tournament. But if they do, this is definitely a team to track. Wright-Foreman is the type of player that can get hot and single handedly carry a team.
This was the biggest test of the early season for the young Terps, but they rallied together in the second half and played their best ball of the season.