Towel in hand, Maryland men's basketball forward Bruno Fernando walked across the entirety of the court, pumping his fist and playing to the Xfinity Center crowd before a referee ushered him back to coach Mark Turgeon's huddle.
The Terps trailed, 59-58, when Bucknell called a timeout to spark Fernando's antics. But having entered halftime down by 15, the one-point deficit was worthy of celebration. Plus, the Terps lacked energy early, Fernando said, and he believed bringing it to the court in the second half enabled their comeback.
Three days after Maryland seemed to show its long-term potential with a convincing 79-65 win against Butler, coach Mark Turgeon's team faced its first real adversity of the season. The Terps weathered the Bison's hot start and dominated the second half to win, 80-78.
"We changed everything in the second half," Turgeon said. "We made the right adjustments. I just didn't know if we buried ourselves too far to come back."
Bucknell (0-4) built a daunting advantage over Maryland (4-0) by shooting 64.5 percent from the field and going 7-for-10 from beyond the arc in the first half. In addition to the team's 3-pointers, center Nano Foulland provided 13 first-half points, bested only by 14 from guard Stephen Brown.
But the Terps' defense tightened from there, avoiding the upset by allowing just 28 points on 29.4 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes.
Inserting guard Darryl Morsell into the lineup was perhaps the most crucial change Turgeon made at the intermission, but the freshman nearly spoiled his 15-point performance in the final second.
Morsell committed an offensive foul, giving the Bison possession trailing by two points with .5 seconds left on the clock. But Fernando blocked Bucknell's 3-pointer — which was late anyway — to ensure Maryland's comeback effort wasn't in vain.
"Darryl really changed the game," said guard Anthony Cowan, who finished with a team-high 17 points. "He's a very intense player."
Turgeon said his coaching staff's pregame scouting report was wrong, and Morsell's increased size compared to starting guard Dion Wiley allowed the Terps to use an improved defensive plan after halftime.
Morsell also shined on offense, willing the Terps back into the game with eight points in the first four minutes of the second half that included a one-handed dunk after forcing an errant inbounds pass. The Baltimore native used tough drives to the basket to finish with 12 second-half points, his fourth time setting a career-high in points in his four games as a Terp.
"I'm a competitive individual. If I feel like I can make a play, I'm going to try my best and make that play," Morsell said. "Whatever it takes to win."
Behind Morsell's boost, it took the Terps just over 10 minutes to erase the Bison's halftime advantage. When guard Kevin Huerter drained a corner three to put Maryland up, 63-61, with 9:58 left to play, it was the team's first lead since moving ahead, 18-17, in the early going.
By the time Huerter hit his long-distance shot, Bucknell's shooting had cooled off. Brown added nine points for the Bison after halftime, but Fernando helped keep Foulland nearly silent, as the center notched just two points and three rebounds after halftime.
"In the first half, our bigs were a little soft," Fernando said.
With a couple of minutes left before halftime, that lack of intensity left Fernando walking toward his bench, holding the ball in his left hand and slapping it repeatedly with his right. He'd just been whistled for a foul on a Foulland bucket that gave Bucknell its biggest lead of the game to that point.
But thanks to an altered game plan and the energy jolt Maryland's grown to expect from Fernando and Morsell, when the final buzzer sounded, Fernando celebrated and danced with Testudo, jubilant after avoiding his first career defeat.
"We just made adjustments and they worked. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't," Turgeon said. "And then we just played harder."