Sarah Sopher/The Left Bench

Maryland uses a strong defensive effort to beat Fayetteville State

Heading into the under 12 minute timeout, Fayetteville State was surprisingly hanging around with Maryland. Leading by only one, head coach Mark Turgeon decided to use a full-court 1-3-1 press to thwart the Broncos. It worked. 

On the first possession against the zone, the Broncos turned it over leading to an Anthony Cowan Jr. lay up. The next time down, the Broncos broke the press and the Terps fell back into a 3-2 matchup zone. 

That same possession freshman Makhi Mitchell blocked a shot and threw a perfect outlet to Darryl Morsell leading to another layup. Fayetteville State took a timeout, but the damage had been done. 

“I think it gave them a lot of pressure. I don’t think they were quite able to figure out what it was we were doing. We went from the press back to the zone and we went from the zone back to a man at one point,” said sophomore Aaron Wiggins. “Being able to throw different things out there defensively and use our length is a really big deal for us.”

The Terps would finish the half on a 26-8 run and never look back, rolling to a 76 to 43 victory. Wiggins and Cowan were the leading scorers in the first half with nine a piece, but Mitchell and fellow freshmen Donta Scott were the breakout stars of the game. Scott totaled 10 points, five rebounds, and two assists, while Mitchell had four points, eight rebounds, three blocked shots and the highest plus/minus at +24.

“We signed the (Mitchell) twins and Donta to bring toughness to us, and I’m pretty sure they are on their way to doing that. Donta is tough, you can’t break that kid,” Turgeon said. “For 6’7 he (Scott) is strong.”

The Terps would continue that momentum into the second half. After scoring only two points in the first half Jalen Smith scored a couple early second half buckets, finishing with 10 points total. He was a menace on the defensive end recording four blocks as well. Turgeon spoke very highly of his defensive effort.

“He’s gotten so much better defensively,” Turgeon said. “I think the key for Jalen is he’s really happy and he’s really relaxed and he’s really confident.”

The Terps defense as a whole was much improved after the first half under eight timeout. They blocked 10 shots, forced 17 turnovers and held Fayetteville State to 25 percent shooting from the field

The most glaring error for the Terps was easily their free throw shooting. Collectively, they were 16-30 from the field with Smith going 4-8. But Turgeon believes it was just an off night and the team should improve. 

“We’ve shot a ton of free throws. I’m guessing around 24,000 as a team since the school year started,” Turgeon said. “At our private scrimmage we shot 82 percent.”

Another thing of note was Cowan not in the starting lineup. Turgeon said he wanted to give Wiggins the chance to start tonight, and Cowan will be back in the starting lineup Tuesday. Cowan started the second half along with Darryl Morsell, Wiggins, Mitchell, and Smith, while Ayala and Ricky Lindo came off the bench. The four players joining Cowan in the starting lineup Tuesday still remain a mystery.

The Terps will start the regular season on Tuesday against Holy Cross at 7:30 p.m. at the Xfinity Center.