COLLEGE PARK — Maryland freshman center Bruno Fernando had a bunch of firsts in the past week, from hitting his first outside shot and recording his first career double double against Penn State to being named Monday as the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Week for the first time.
He also had a second.
After making ESPN’s Top 10 Plays earlier this season with a dunk against Ohio that got him No. 8 on the list, the 6-foot-10 Angolan made it again Sunday night for his one-handed monster dunk in Maryland’s 91-73 win over Iowa at Xfinity Center. It highlighted a career-high 21-point performance for Fernando The dunk was No. 4 in the Top 10.
Sophomore point guard Anthony Cowan Jr., whose strong second-half play helped the Terps overcome a four-point deficit to the Hawkeyes earlier in the half, predicted it would happen after making a lob pass to Fernando, who threw down a vicious slam while being fouled on the play. He then converted the three-point play.
Maryland men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon talks about his team's Sunday night victory over Iowa at the Xfinity Center in College Park, Md. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun video)
”I just looked at him again and told him, ‘ “SportsCenter” again,’ you got to be on the lookout for that, Top 10,” said Cowan, who finished with 15 points, 11 in the second half, to go along with a career-record-tying seven assists and no turnovers.
Asked about the dunk, Fernando said: “I don’t know. I don’t even know how I got that ball. I just jumped.”
Though several players helped the Terps turn their deficit into a rout with a 20-2 run and six finished in double figures — freshman guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) scored 14 to go along with a team-high eight rebounds, sophomore guard Kevin Huerter and senior center Michal Cekovsky each had 13, and redshirt junior guard Dion Wiley added 10 — Fernando seemed to make the biggest impression on Iowa coach Fran McCaffery.
“He’s a versatile guy, he’s bouncy, he’s physical, he’s strong, he’s got some offensive skill,” said McCaffery, who was forced to watch the game inside his team’s dressing room after being ejected late in the first half.
“But the thing I like about him, he plays really hard. He really competes. When you have a young guy that competes like he does, you have something special there. I really like his game.”
After recovering from two sprained ankles — one on each foot, with the first a high sprain to his left ankle coming in preseason practice and the other, which was less serious, to his right ankle, suffered against Ohio after making the dunk — Fernando is starting to live up to the promise that followed him from high school in Florida.
He earned the Big Ten Freshman of the Week based largely on his 17-point, career-high 11-rebound performance against the Nittany Lions and the fact that he averaged 15.8 points and 8.3 rebounds in the three games Maryland played.
Fernando’s strong play coincides with Maryland coach Mark Turgeon going to a bigger lineup in the aftermath to season-ending injuries to power forwards Justin Jackson (torn labrum in his shoulder) and Ivan Bender (torn meniscus).
The Iowa game was the third straight the two big men have started together, and Fernando seems more comfortable playing alongside senior Michal Cekovsky than he did when used with four perimeter players.
“That’s one thing that we really haven’t worked on a lot,” Fernando said. “We been working on it like me and Ceko will be on the court a few times only, but we’re doing a great job working with each other, knowing where each other is on the court. We’re going to try to keep building that relationship on the court. That’s better for us, and it benefits our team.”
“Wow, we got to get rebounding and box guys out,” said Fernando, who had seven rebounds against the Hawkeyes. “That’s one thing we’ve really got to do more and more, trying to be a great rebounding team and a great defensive team.”
The two performances that helped Fernando earn his Freshman of the Week honor sandwiched a seven-point, seven-rebound game in a 30-point loss Thursday night to then-No. 1 Michigan State, during which the center got into early foul trouble.
“They’re a great team,” Fernando said of the Spartans. “They have a lot of big guys in the rotation and we don’t have that many.”
NOTES: Wiley, who scored all his points off the bench in the first half, appeared to be hit in the face and poked in the eye during a rebound scrum only 11 seconds into the second half after subbing in for Morsell. Blurry vision prevented Wiley from returning to the game. A team spokesman said Monday that Wiley’s injury is being evaluated and his status for Thursday has yet to be determined.