Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Slow-starting Terps hold off Morehead State

COLLEGE PARK - The energy Maryland possessed in its season opener against reigning national champion Kentucky wasn't evident throughout most of Monday's first home game of the year.

Sure, the opponent was Morehead State, not exactly the caliber of a formidable foe such as the Wildcats despite hailing from the same state. It just took the Terrapins a little while to get going, and when they did it was enough to hold off the Eagles 67-45 at Comcast Center.

Coming off a 72-69 loss to Kentucky on Friday night in Brooklyn, N.Y., a game in which it led in the final minutes and played before a raucous Barclays Center crowd, Maryland started slow in front of a sparse fan base of 8,724.

Morehead State may be a mid-major program, but the Eagles played in the NCAA tournament a year ago and were coming of a win over Long Island-Brooklyn. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon was upbeat about his team's performance despite a sluggish start.

"I think people are going to look at that score and say Maryland is supposed to beat Morehead State by 22 points. I didn't feel that way going in," Turgeon said. "They had a great win, and they had a lot of confidence coming into this game. We talked about two things from the Kentucky game - we wanted to be a lot better defensively ... and we wanted to share the ball more."

The Terrapins (1-1) utilized their depth and Turgeon played all 14 players Monday night. Sophomore guard Nick Faust led the way with 12 points and sophomore center Alex Len added 11 with seven rebounds. Maryland collected 40 rebounds to Morehead's 32, with freshman forward Charles Mitchell grabbing nine to lead the team.

"That was a great game for us," said Turgeon, who credited the Eagles' pressure for making things tough on the Terps early on. "Thank God we have depth, because I think some guys get tired pretty quickly. ... [Morehead State] came out with a lot of energy to start the second half. We sustained it, and then we wore them down."

The Terrapins created distance in the first half from the foul line by making 16 of 22 free throws. Freshman Shaquille Cleare was 6 for 8 in the half while Len went 5 for 6.

Morehead State (1-1) committed 10 turnovers along the way and shot 27.6 percent (1 for 10 for 3-pointers) from the floor, opening the game with a 2-for-15 streak.

Maryland made 11 of 14 free throws in the final 5 minutes, 16 seconds of the half, while the Eagles mustered a mere three field goals in that stretch.

The Terps' biggest first-half highlight was a thunderous alley-oop dunk from sophomore guard Dez Wells, who streaked in along the left side and slammed in a long pass from Pe'Shon Howard with 8:35 to play. Wells had five points in the half, while Len and Faust had seven apiece and Maryland led 35-19 at the break.

Maryland needed more than three minutes to score a basket in the second half, and the Eagles trimmed the Terps' lead to 44-34 with 13:19 to play. But the Terrapins went back to Len and senior forward James Padgett and it paid off.

Len scored underneath from a nifty Faust assist on the ensuing possession. Padgett then scored on a putback the next time down, and after a Morehead State turnover Padgett came back with another bucket. Eagles coach Sean Woods used a timeout while Padgett and his teammates revved up the home fans.

Padgett played only 13 minutes and scored nine points, but said he was OK with the limited court time.

"Sometimes it happens, when a lot of guys are rolling it's hard to rotate," said Padgett, who sat for spells while freshmen Shaquille Cleare and Mitchell came in. "It's a luxury having guys come in and you're not losing anything. That makes teams good."

Milton Chavis led Morehead State with 10 points and Jason Holmes added seven, but the Eagles finished shooting 19 for 60 (31.7 percent) and their early foul trouble led to Maryland's victory.

Monday's win was the first of four straight non-conference home games for the Terps, who host LIU-Brooklyn on Friday. Undoubtedly, the crowds will increase as the season progresses and Maryland builds its resume.

"I think we came out strong," Padgett said about Monday's game. "I don't know if it was the same intensity [against Kentucky], but we came out strong with the mentality that we can go out there and play hard and not play down to our competition."