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Eric Ayala is perfect from the field as Maryland beats Old Dominion, 85-67, in season opener at Xfinity Center

Maryland Terrapins forward Galin Smith (30) tangles with Old Dominion Monarchs forward Kalu Ezikpe (22) over a rebound during the first half in College Park Wed., Nov. 25, 2020 (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)
Maryland Terrapins forward Galin Smith (30) tangles with Old Dominion Monarchs forward Kalu Ezikpe (22) over a rebound during the first half in College Park Wed., Nov. 25, 2020 (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff) (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland senior guard Darryl Morsell sliced between two Old Dominion defenders on a fastbreak and laid the basketball in the hoop past a third defender’s block attempt for an early second-half bucket.

Morsell rushed back to defense as the Terps set up their full-court press. Junior forward Jairus Hamilton, a transfer from Boston College, intercepted a pass at half-court and went the other way before passing back to Morsell, who slammed a reverse dunk to the delight of his socially distanced teammates on the bench.

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Maryland defeated Old Dominion, 85-67, at Xfinity Center on Wednesday afternoon in its season opener, the first of three games in five days for a four-team event in College Park.

Junior guard Eric Ayala led Maryland (1-0) with a game-high 19 points on 6-for-6 shooting from the field. Morsell (12 points), junior guard Aaron Wiggins (12 points) and sophomore forward Donta Scott (career-high 14 points) all scored double figures as well.

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Maryland was playing its first game since clinching a share of the Big Ten regular-season title — the program’s first — with an 83-70 home win against Michigan on March 8 before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

In the eight months since the Terps cut nets down and relished in a conference championship, they had seen two first-team All-Big Ten players depart in senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and forward Jalen Smith, who left early for the NBA draft. The trio of Ayala, Morsell and Wiggins returned but the team also welcomed several transfers and freshmen.

“I really want to win. A lot of people kind of counted us out a little bit and put us on the back burner,” Ayala said of his team, ranked 10th out of 14 teams in the Big Ten media preseason poll. “And I really want to win a lot this year and that’s kind of my approach right now. Whatever I’ve got to do to help us win, I’m really looking forward to us winning a lot of games.”

Both teams had to return negative COVID-19 tests Wednesday morning to ensure the season opener would be played. Dozens of teams this week have already paused team activities or called off games because of COVID-19-related issues, including Monmouth, who canceled its Dec. 1 game against Maryland after somebody within the program tested positive.

At College Park, large Maryland flags covered the student section as the game was played without fans in attendance, the typical bench setup was scrapped for seats spread apart to promote social distancing and coaches barked out orders through facial coverings.

“I’ll use the word unique instead of weird,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “Not shaking hands with the coaches, you’re just waving at them. We were so messed up at starting lineups, our guys didn’t know if they were allowed to touch each other. They didn’t huddle, they would normally huddle after starting lineups.”

For the first starting five of the season, Turgeon slotted Ayala, Morsell and Wiggins, the reigning Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year, in the backcourt with Hamilton and senior forward Galin Smith, a transfer from Alabama, in the frontcourt. Donta Scott, who started 21 games last season, came off the bench.

A 13-0 run separated Maryland from Old Dominion (0-1) in the latter portion of the first half after a close first 10 minutes. The Terps led 42-29 at the half and led by as many as 26 in the second half.

Maryland shot 47.6% from the field and made 10 of 23 3-pointers.

The Terps’ use of the full-court press forced turnovers and prevented Old Dominion from easing into its half-court offense through stretches of the game.

“Our guys like [the press],” Turgeon said. We put it in, I don’t know, two weeks ago. … We don’t have a lot in because we’re so far behind because of what’s going on. … [Old Dominion was] resetting and starting their plays at 16 seconds on the shot clock. It’s a lot easier to guard for 16 seconds than it is for 25 so we did things defensively today.”

Turgeon introduced a hockey-style line change for his first substitutions, putting Donta Scott, freshman guard Aquan Smart, senior guard Reese Mona, sophomore guard Hakim Hart and sophomore center Chol Marial on the floor. In total, 13 Terps saw the court and 10 players scored.

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Marial, the 7-foot-2 South Sudan native who played sparingly last season after recovering from surgery on stress fractures in both legs, had a nice sequence in the first half. He blocked a layup, sparking a fastbreak that led to a Donta Scott three-point play. Marial finished with a career-high seven points, four rebounds and two blocks in a career-high 16 minutes.

Hamilton recorded five points — all of which jump-started the 13-0 run in the first half — and two rebounds, and Galin Smith recorded six points and four rebounds in the duo’s first game as Terps. Smart, an Illinois native who was rated a three-star prospect, scored six points in 14 minutes of his debut, including a one-handed tomahawk dunk in the second half.

“Galin was just really solid,” Turgeon said. “Jairus got us going offensively. Even though he wasn’t scoring — he made one three — he posted, we played through him on the post and we were able to get some things there.”

The Terps will play Navy on Friday at 3 p.m. and then conclude the four-team event against Mount St. Mary’s on Sunday at 2 p.m.

NAVY@MARYLAND

Friday, 3 p.m.

TV: BTN Radio: 105.7 FM

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