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Freshman Huerter helps Terps break open a close game

COLLEGE PARK — In a span of a few possessions early in the second half, Maryland freshman Kevin Huerter helped turn a relatively close game against Howard into what became his team's first blowout win over a Division I opponent this season.

The 6-foot-7, 190-pound wing did it by making just one shot.

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With the Terps ahead 38-31 at halftime, junior center Michal Cekovsky blocked a shot at one end and Huerter orchestrated a break at the other, finding fellow freshman Anthony Cowan for a layup.

On Maryland's next possession following a jump shot by Howard's Charles Williams, Huerter squeezed a two-handed bounce pass from the top of the key into Cekovsky for another layup.

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Then after snagging a defensive rebound and tipping the ball to a teammate as it was about to go out of bounds, Huerter ran the court and hit a 3-pointer from the right wing.

Suddenly the lead was 12 and what turned into a 79-56 rout – the biggest margin of victory since the Terps beat Division I St. Mary's by 48 points on Nov. 17 – was on Wednesday night at the Xfinity Center.

"I think for that stretch, it was big because we started getting stops to open up the half and we were able to get out and run, I think I hit a 3 in that stretch and I kind of felt better with my shot," Huerter said. "I think it got everything else going."

Huerter's final statistics did not fully explain his contribution and the reason he has started every game for the Terps this season. But Maryland coach Mark Turgeon did.

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"Kevin's got point guard skills," Turgeon said. "You look at his numbers – he was three for four [from the field], I think two for three from 3-[point range]. He had four assists, no turnovers, a block. He really had good numbers and kind of let the game flow … I thought Kevin's [23] minutes were good. Just kind of quietly a real good game."

It was one of the more efficient performances Huerter has had since earlier in the season.

After hitting four of his first five 3-pointers in the team's first two games, a player who came to Maryland with a reputation as a knockdown shooter has struggled with his shot.

"Obviously at the beginning of the year and in the last stretch, I've been frustrated [with his outside shooting]," Huerter said Wednesday. "I know we have a lot of different guys that can pick that up."

Huerter had made just seven of 30 from long-distance, including two of nine in the team's first loss of the season last week to Pittsburgh and none of the four he attempted in a 71-70 win over Oklahoma State.

The Terps, who came into the game hitting just 29.2 percent as a team of its 3-points and then missed 10 of their first 14 against Howard, made six of nine during the stretch when they blew out the Bison.

"The last week, the whole team I think has taken a lot more shots [in practice] than we have since the beginning of the season, we're shooting a lot more with assistant coaches and get our shot going, get more confidence there," Huerter said. "We knew we were going to get wide open shots, we just had to make them."

It wasn't only his shooting that helped Huerter win the starting job in the preseason. He has shown to be one of the most versatile players on the team and arguably its best defender along with Cowan.

"Coming into the year, my scoring and my shooting wasn't something that the coaches were focused on for me," Huerter said. "They knew I could on different nights, but they've really been trying to focus me on the defensive end and doing more than just being a shooter."

Along with hitting two 3-pointers during a comeback win against Georgetown, Huerter's  two-handed block on Hoyas freshman Jagan Mosely to seal a one-point victory at the Verizon Center last month got some national attention.

"I've tried to do more of that, tried to be more of a good defender," said Huerter, who along with Cowan has continually has drawn the opposing team's top perimeter scorers. "When I'm not hitting shots, which I haven't been. I try to bring something else to the table."

A former point guard who had a late growth spurt in high school in Clifton Park, N.Y., Huerter has also become another option besides junior Melo Trimble and Cowan to handle the ball, especially in the open court.  Against Howard, all three had four assists on a night when the Terps had a season-high 20.

"I've always enjoyed passing the ball," Huerter said.

Notes: Junior center Michal Cekovsky, who started in place of injured senior Damonte Dodd (sprained knee) tied his career-high with 16 points on eight of nine shooting, as did junior guard Jaylen Brantley, who had 14 points, including four of eight on 3-pointers…Maryland (9-1) plays St. Peter's (4-4) Saturday at home at noon.

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