Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon bickered at his team as he walked onto the Xfinity Center floor a minute into the second half Sunday.
On the other end of the floor, Mount St. Mary’s coach Dan Engelstad enthusiastically high-fived his players as they met for a huddle, excited at their start to the half. The Mount had scored twice, the second a baseline jumper that seemed to irk Turgeon enough that he called timeout despite his side’s 16-point lead.
But shortly after that timeout, Turgeon saw the type of spacing, passing and domination he expected against a Northeast Conference foe.
“Good execution, guys,” the eighth-year coach yelled after the Terps worked the ball inside to forward Jalen Smith for an and-1 layup that restored order and displayed the kind of overpowering frontcourt play that powered Maryland to a 92-77 win over Mount St. Mary’s.
“I didn’t think we were ready; we made a bunch of mistakes,” Turgeon said of what prompted the timeout. “The guys responded there, which was good.”
Early in the contest, though, the Mount didn’t look quite so thoroughly overmatched, as turnovers stacked up against Maryland. When Smith gave up a cheap turnover on the defensive end — his third in the first three minutes of action — K.J. Scott nailed a 3-pointer in the corner to give Mount St. Mary’s a fleeting two-point lead.
“[Smith] just wasn’t ready to play,” Turgeon said.
But by the time Smith made his first basket, a layup with about eight minutes remaining in the first half, the Terps led by 14 points.
“After that,” Turgeon said, “he was pretty darn good.”
Smith finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and the Mount’s attempts to limit him and forward Bruno Fernando inside left players open on the wings. Those holes in the zone defense helped Serrel Smith Jr., who had shot 1-for-12 from long range entering Sunday’s matchup, put together the best performance of his young career.
The freshman nailed a 3-pointer from the corner before darting down the baseline and finishing a feed from Smith at the rim as part of his 13-point game. Two minutes later, Smith Jr. swished another three, one of the many freshmen who had standout performances Sunday.
“We’ve got an advantage on the inside, and we’ve also got guards who can knock down shots and drive by people,” Fernando said. “Playing inside-out is working for us.”
Turnovers persisted throughout the opening period, however. The Terps gave the ball away 10 times in the first half — matching how many they had in the entirety of their 78-57 win over Navy on Nov. 9.
But after the break, and after Turgeon’s timeout, Maryland built up a lead as large as 32 points midway through the period. Fernando, who led the team with 21 points on 10-for-12 shooting, continued a dominant start to his sophomore year.
Midway through the first half, Ayala lofted an alley-oop attempt to Fernando, who caught it and attempted to throw it down, as he’s done so often this season. The ball slipped out of his grasp, but Fernando landed, recovered the loose ball and slammed it home in a more traditional manner.
“The key was just learning how to slow down sometimes,” Fernando said. “Try to just let the game come to me instead of trying to force anything.”
Maryland scored 56 of its 92 points in the paint, mounting a lead big enough to weather a late surge from the Mount — who outscored the Terps, 34-17, in the final 10 minutes — and allow the walk-ons to finish the game.
Maryland can get away with the turnovers and sloppy finish at home against an outmatched opponent, but the ease-in games are nearing an end. Turgeon’s young team will need to come much closer to 40 minutes of consistency to knock off No. 4 Virginia on Nov. 28, or No. 23 Purdue the following week.
“Only things I’m disappointed about are two things: turnovers and the way we finished the game,” Turgeon said. “Ten years ago I would’ve lost my mind, but the core guys were good.”