The Maryland Terrapins basketball team doubled up on Randolph Macon in its victory Thursday night in an exhibition game in College Park. Sophomore point guard Anthony Cowan led the way with 17 points, while freshman guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) scored 14 in the 88-44 victory. Here are some observations and opinions as the Terps prepare for the regular-season opener next Friday against Stony Brook at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.:
1. Because several key players can be used at multiple positions, this team could be the most versatile Mark Turgeon has had in College Park. The versatility of sophomores Kevin Huerter, Justin Jackson and Cowan, as well as freshmen Morsell and Bruno Fernando, will allow Turgeon to mix his lineups depending on the competition. All four of the perimeter players are capable ballhandlers and willing passers, and Fernando is expected to play both at power forward and center. Redshirt junior forward Ivan Bender, who is in the best shape and lowest weight since he came to Maryland, also has the ability to play inside and can even be used in the high post because of his passing skills. The fact that Maryland will have big men who can both score and bang inside – qualities that were missing last year and maybe for most of Turgeon’s tenure – will also open thing up for the perimeter players.
2. Turgeon is going to have a hard time keeping Morsell off the floor. The most impressive performance was from the former Mount Saint Joseph star, who not only finished with 14 points but helped spark the late first-half run that quickly turned a surprisingly competitive game into the expected rout of a Division III opponent. Morsell showed the kind of athleticism going to the basket that Maryland hasn’t had from one of its guards since Dez Wells graduated in 2015, and he is a much better ballhandler and passer than Wells. While Turgeon is going to take advantage of the matchup problems with a bigger lineup, Morsell will allow the Terps to go small without being at the kind of height disadvantage they faced last year when Cowan and Jaylen Brantley were on the floor at the same time.
3. Cowan looks to be more in control and more confident than he was as a freshman. Clearly the team’s floor leader now that Melo Trimble has departed, Cowan seemed to play with better pace Thursday and didn’t try to force the issue. It also appeared that he has improved his 3-point shooting after hitting just 31 percent as a freshman. If he continues to hit from the outside, he will become a much more difficult player to defend because of his elite quickness and first step. If Morsell shows that he can run the team against Big Ten competition, it will allow Cowan to move off the ball and play more in his natural position as a scorer. Cowan admitted over the summer that he and the other freshmen deferred to Trimble maybe too much at times last season, putting a lot of pressure on the junior star to make big shots and making it easier for teams to defend the Terps.