Whether it was first game jitters or not having enough film to study from, the Maryland men’s basketball team, who’s ranked seventh in the country, was looking shaky against Holy Cross in the Xfinity Center.
Holy Cross was finding good looks offensively, Maryland struggled to find consistency from deep and Terps’ Head Coach Mark Turgeon needed to find answers. He looked to his bench and called on his second unit led by junior guard Darryl Morsell to ignite a spark that would carry over into the second half of the Terps’ 95-71 victory over the Crusaders to kick off the regular season.
“Darryl [Morsell] was terrific, he got us going,” Turgeon said. “I thought he was poised, didn’t pout because he didn’t start. He went out there and knew that he would play starter minutes.”
With Maryland trailing by one point through less than ten minutes into the first half, Morsell recorded one of his three steals then rose up to deliver an empathic two-handed slam that would help ignite a 8-0 run, which provided the Terps all the momentum they needed.
“The starters needed a spark, needed something to keep us going, and I just try to provide that,” Morsell, who finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists, said. “They are confident in me, the coaches and staff are confident in me, just having leaders like Anthony and them just keep me motivated, confident and keep me going. I just try to make a spark and make a play for the team.”
Maryland sophomore forward Jalen Smith couldn’t get anything going in the first half, shooting 2-8 with four fouls. Then suddenly in the second half, the projected first round pick was chasing down blocks and scoring efficiently in the paint to finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
“He could have had thirty tonight,” Turgeon said. “Just never got it going in the first half. He’ll get better. He has really practiced well. You can tell that he is much more consistent even though he didn’t make those shots, he is more consistent in his play out there. He’s heck of a player, I’m glad we’ve got him.”
Maryland’s offense stepped up in the second half, going on a 16-4 run that set up a 68-49 lead, but three-point shooting was a continuing problem, as they shot 5-27 from behind the arc.
“We didn’t shoot the ball very well, we missed a lot of open ones,” Turgeon said. “Probably the thing I was most disappointed in offensively was our shot selection. I thought we took probably four or six bad shots.”
Maryland senior point guard Anthony Cowan, who made his 100th straight start, finished with 12 points and five assists. Sophomore guard Eric Ayala registered 12 points on 4-10 shooting. Maryland’s freshmen made a strong impact. Forward Donta Scott was all over the floor, providing energy and going after loose balls while Makhi and Makhel Mitchell provided extra size on the defensive end.
“Donta is an animal, he’s a different breed so obviously he is going to play good,” Smith said. “The twins they played their role. They banged in the paint, they held rebounds, they finished when they had the ball and kept playing.”