COLLEGE PARK — The sign of a young team is often to be impatient and sometimes a tad overconfident when playing against what it believes to be lesser competition.
Starting two freshmen and playing five, the Maryland men’s basketball team exhibited both tendencies in Tuesday night’s 73-67 season-opening victory over Delaware at Xfinity Center.
Leading by 17 points at halftime and stretching the lead to as many 22, the Terps saw the Blue Hens close to within three with 1:21 left.
That’s where the most celebrated of the freshmen took over — at the defensive end.
Despite missing a pair of critical free throws, Jalen Smith blocked one shot and altered a couple of others to help the Terps survive.
The former Mount Saint Joseph star finished with a double double in his first college game with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
Sophomore center Bruno Fernando scored 15 points and blocked three shots. Junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. added 15 points, but shot just 4-for-14 from the field.
But it was Fernando’s second-half foul trouble — he fouled out with 3:44 remaining — and some nervous shooting by the Terps that caused a near-meltdown.
After a shaky start that saw the Terps rely too much on 3-point shooting against the much-smaller Blue Hens, Maryland finished the half on a 15-1 run by going inside.
Struggling mightily against Delaware’s zone defense before and after Fernando left the game, Maryland couldn’t put the Blue Hens away.
Eric Carter, a 6-foot-9 redshirt senior, led Delaware’s comeback with a career-high 29 points on 12 of 14 shooting.
Maryland’s biggest issue was its zone offense, shooting 2-for-19 on 3-pointers.
The Terps actually missed 17 of their 18 3-pointers after sophomore Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) hit one to start.
Instant analysis: Maryland showed its inexperience, and its lack of frontcourt depth with Fernando in foul trouble. Teams are going to zone the Terps until they can prove they can hit 3-pointers, especially when games get tight. Coach Mark Turgeon knew that it was going to be tough replacing Kevin Huerter, and Tuesday night showed why. The good news is that Turgeon will have plenty to work on in practice as Maryland gets ready for Navy on Saturday in Annapolis.