Mark Turgeon couldn't stop fidgeting in the waning moments of the Maryland men's basketball team's 80-78 victory over Bucknell on Saturday. After enduring the stress of a 15-point halftime deficit, he found it difficult to watch as his team finished its comeback with a game-saving defensive stop.
Turgeon likely hoped for a more relaxed evening Monday when the Terps faced Jackson State, which hasn't made the NCAA tournament in a decade.
For 10 minutes, Turgeon sat calmly on the bench.
But when freshman guard Darryl Morsell injured his hamstring midway through the first half, forcing the freshman to limp off the court, Turgeon stood up and paced back-and-forth. Turgeon knows losing Morsell for an extended period of time would be disastrous for his promising roster, and to go down in a blowout makes matters more frustrating.
The Terps don't have a legitimate backup point guard behind starter Anthony Cowan this year. Over their first four games, however, they'd received solid production in that role from Morsell, who mostly played shooting guard in high school.
Morsell entered Monday's game averaging 10.8 points off the bench. He also offered stellar defense against multiple positions, making him a crucial asset.
A local player from Baltimore with a knack for physical play and trash talk, Morsell is already an emerging fan favorite. When he entered in each of the past two contests, Morsell received loud ovations.
So, Turgeon admitted to being nervous as he turned to guard Kevin Huerter and told the sophomore he'd have to run the point.
"Damn," responded Huerter, who later acknowledged he hasn't led an offense in a while. "I'm ready coach."
Huerter stepped up in the role with three assists, including a left-handed cross-court dish Turgeon called spectacular.
At halftime, Morsell told Turgeon he wanted to return. While Turgeon didn't take that risk, that was a good sign for his well-being. Morsell is listed as day-to-day with a hamstring strain. He'll have until Friday before the Terps' next game.
"He's pretty important to us," Turgeon said. "We've got to get him back."
Morsell is one of the most difficult players to replace on Maryland's roster, with his positional value and blend of athleticism and physicality rivaled by few on the team. With tough matchups against Syracuse and Purdue looming, Morsell's timetable will greatly influence the Terps' short-term ambitions.
With his good friend Morsell sidelined, Fernando produced a monster offensive game, racking up 18 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes. He's becoming a force down low for Terps, giving them the kind of multidimensional post presence they lacked last year.
It's not often Nickens leads Maryland in shot attempts. Against the Tigers, however, he hoisted up 11 shots in only 17 minutes — two more than anyone else. Five of those attempts went in, including four from 3-point range, which helped the Terps overcome a zone defense Turgeon said they did not game plan for.
Huerter said he watched video of his past two games on tape, going over each of the 10 turnovers he committed to figure out what went wrong. That dedication turned into an efficient 14-point, one-turnover showing. Huerter also provided three assists after taking on some of the team's point guard responsibilities.
This was the second game in a row Jackson looked better on offense, as he's righted himself after a poor showing Wednesday against Butler. Jackson hit his first 3-pointer of the season against Bucknell, and he connected on three treys in this one. He also grabbed eight rebounds, continuing his stellar play on the boards.
While Cowan went scoreless after leading the team in points per game entering the contest, his mere presence on the floor helped Maryland pull away. He racked up a season-high six assists and committed just two turnovers while leading the team in minutes. When Cowan was in the game, the Terps outscored the Tigers by 32 points. But Jackson State outscored the Terps without him, underlining his importance.