After Maryland men's basketball guard Dion Wiley swished a corner three to put the Terps up 28-14 in the first half against Northwestern on Saturday, forward Bruno Fernando waved his arms to pump up the crowd as he trotted back on defense.
It was the kind of exuberant gesture rarely seen from Fernando or his teammates over the previous eight contests, when Maryland went 2-6 against Big Ten opponents to fall out of the NCAA tournament picture.
While the Terps' 73-57 win over Northwestern didn't erase their recent struggles or revive their postseason ambitions, beating up on the Wildcats provided much-needed positivity for a program burdened by an unraveling campaign.
The sense of relief down the stretch Saturday was palpable.
When guard Dion Wiley sunk a twisting layup through contact to put the Terps up by 15 with about six and a half minutes to go, the bench erupted, with normally reserved forward Joshua Tomaic flexing his muscles in celebration.
"It's always good to have these type of wins when the game doesn't go down to the wire," guard Anthony Cowan said. "It gives us a lot more confidence."
Coach Mark Turgeon offered the clearest glimpse into the frustrations of the last month and the importance of blowing out Northwestern, saying that while "losing stinks," he hopes his players are peaking at the right time.
Then, before taking questions, he seemed to take a jab at growing discontent from fans toward the Terps' ninth-place position in the Big Ten standings.
"We are 17-10," Turgeon muttered, "If that's considered losing."
Huerter was phenomenal throughout the Terps' widest margin of victory in more than a month, backing up a quick 12 points in the first half with 22 overall to go along with five assists, four rebounds and three steals.
Not only did Morsell score 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting, but he also fulfilled a key role in the Terps' offense, regularly driving down the baseline and kicking the ball to the perimeter. His play helped keep Maryland's offense moving as it eclipsed 70 points for the second straight game.
Turgeon praised Wiley's strong all-around performance after the senior didn't record an assist, rebound or steal on Wednesday against Penn State. Wiley made the most of his 26 minutes on Sunday, shooting well from long range (2-for-4), grabbing five boards and dishing four assists. Cowan said Wiley had his best defensive showing in the past two seasons.
Cowan served as a quality secondary scorer in the win, taking a backseat to Huerter at times offensively but still chipping in 16 points. He also played a key role in keeping Northwestern senior Bryant McIntosh scoreless for the first time in his career.
Fernando was held to two points and committed four fouls, but he had three loud blocks to spur Maryland's defensive effort. Fortunately for the Terps, his lack of production in other areas didn't prove costly.