By Logan Hill
Eric Ayala stood at the free throw line, awaiting the ball. He received it from the official and sunk the shot, good for his 1,000th career point in a Maryland uniform.
It was a solid night for the Terps leader, as he and Maryland’s other upperclassmen demonstrated their veteran poise from start to finish.
“I got into the game. I wasn’t even really thinking about it,” Ayala said. “We just kept playing. It happened in the game, I heard them announce it in the game, and then you know, just trying to get to the next possession.”
Maryland men’s basketball opened the season in dominant fashion, controlling the game across the board en route to a 83-69 win over the Quinnipiac Bobcats.
The Terps came out of the gates sluggish, missing eight of their first 12 shots. Eric Ayala shouldered the scoring load, adding 6 of his 13 on the night in the game’s first five minutes. His sixth point was his 1,000 for the Terps in his career, and also began a 12-6 run for Maryland. Midway through the first half, they led 22-11.
From there, Maryland received contributions across the board. Freshman Julian Reese brought energy off the bench, chipping in seven points, three rebounds and two blocks early, serving as a spark plug on both ends of the floor in his first couple of minutes off the bench.
“Julian’s really good,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “He’s in traffic and all of a sudden he’s by the rim. It’s pretty unique what he’s able to do.”
Donta Scott and Qudus Wahab also chipped in, adding six points apiece along with five combined rebounds in the first frame.
As they worked through their early shooting woes, the Terps were able to rely on their defense and rebounding to build a lead, as they held the Bobcats to just 25 first half points in the first half. Maryland led on the boards too, out-rebounding Quinnipiac 25-14.
At the half, Maryland led 41-25.
“I thought defensively [in] the first half, we were terrific,” Turgeon said.
Coming out of the locker room, Wahab started things off for Maryland, hitting three in a row, matching his first half point total in the first two minutes of the second. After lacking a true presence in the post a season ago, the Georgetown transfer thrived in his first official game as a Terp, running from end to end and keeping Quinnipiac off the boards.
Wahab wasn’t the only Maryland big man to make his impact felt early in the second half. Scott also got in on the action, hitting a free throw line jumper to put the Terps up by 20 with about 16 minutes left in the game.
Maryland would lead by as many as 24.
The two sides would trade baskets the rest of the way, with Quinnipiac only ever getting as close as 14 down.
It was a sound performance for Mark Turgeon’s squad in their first official action of the year. 12 different Terps played minutes, including a handful of players getting their first taste of college action.
Scott and Wahab finished the game with a combined 30 points and 11 rebounds, fortifying Maryland’s presence down low. Fatts Russell also played well in his first action with the Terps, scoring 12 points and dishing out 4 assists. He was one of five in double figures for Maryland, joining Ayala, Scott, Wahab and Reese. Wahab led Maryland in scoring with 17 points.
“Just knowing that you have other guys that’ll be able to score, like [Eric and Qudus], multiple positions that can score, it might be the post, it might be the wing, makes me better inside because I know that, I can pass it to that person and still get a score,” Scott said.
Its first of five games at the Xfinity Center before heading to the Bahamas for the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship, Tuesday’s win over Quinnipiac was the first real test for Maryland as they look to return to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in the last eight years.
“It was great to have fans back, have some students there tonight,” Turgeon said. “And just good to get that first game underneath you.”