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24-0 first-half run, Huerter's near triple double lead short-handed Maryland past FDU, 75-50

COLLEGE PARK — As Fairleigh Dickinson cut Maryland’s early eight-point lead to one midway through the first half Thursday amid a slew of sloppy plays and errant shots, Terps coach Mark Turgeon had seen enough and called timeout.

This was not going to be Catholic revisited.

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Nor would FDU become Wofford, which upset North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Wednesday night.

Turgeon didn’t have to say much to his team. He simply put in the three starters who were on the bench during FDU’s run of five straight points, and they sent Maryland on a 24-point run over the next eight-plus minutes.

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It led to a 75-50 victory at Xfinity Center for the Terps, who were playing their first game in nine days because of final exams and were without starters Michal Cekovsky (ankle), Justin Jackson (shoulder) and Dion Wiley (illness).

A season-high six Terps scored in double figures.

Sophomore guard Kevin Huerter led Maryland (11-3) with his first double double of the season and the second of his career, finishing with 12 points, a career-high 15 rebounds (the most by a Terp since Charles Mitchell had that number in 2014), eight assists and three blocks.

Asked about the big run in the first half — which nearly turned out to be the margin of victory — Turgeon said, “I think we had 11 straight [defensive] stops in there during that stretch, and then we made shots.

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“We executed, but we made shots. We were good [against] a zone, we were good in man, we were good in everything. Obviously that was the difference in the game. From then on, we didn’t concentrate as well.”

Leading 46-23 at halftime, the Terps were a bit sluggish in the second half, attributable to playing down to the competition as well as perhaps not getting a second wind after the long break. A small crowd (announced at 12,133 but a lot smaller) didn’t help.

After shooting 15-for-21 in the first half, including 6-for-8 on 3-pointers, Maryland shot just 9-for-29 after halftime, and missed 12 of its 13 3-pointers. FDU struggled shooting throughout, finishing 17-for-71 overall and 6-for-20 on 3-pointers.

“I was really proud of our guys at halftime, I thought we lost a little interest in the second half,” Turgeon said. “We set a goal to hold them to 50 or less and we did it.”

Sophomore guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and freshman guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) each scored a team-high 13 points. Redshirt junior forward Ivan Bender and senior wing Jared Nickens also scored 12. Freshman center Bruno Fernando added 11 points and eight rebounds.

“The silver lining [to missing three starters] is that you’re seeing Ivan Bender get better, you’re seeing Jared Nickens get better,” Turgeon said. “It’s great to see Bruno get extended minutes tonight. Darryl Morsell’s getting better as he’s getting time and, of course, Kevin Huerter was really good.”

Maryland plays Thursday against FDU in its first game since lackluster win over Division III Catholic on Dec. 12.

Huerter’s near triple double

If not for his teammates cooling off dramatically in the second half, Huerter would have had a triple double, something he did just once in high school, as a senior. His last assist came on a pass out to Nickens for a 3-pointer with seven minutes to go.

“Teamwise we definitely didn’t shoot as well in the second half,” Huerter said.

Huerter wasn’t even aware that he was close to a triple double until some of his teammates told him on the bench.

“It was funny, I think individually every player on the bench told me I was only two assists away,” Huerter said. “I said, ‘I know, I know, I got it.’ I think he [Turgeon] was trying to run plays at the end of the game to put me in situations to make. It just didn’t work out. It’s all good.”

The last Maryland player to get a triple double was Greivis Vasquez. As a junior against North Carolina in 2008-09, Vasquez finished with 35 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

The junior from Greece, who started her college career at Florida, finished with a career-high 32 points in her first game for Maryland.

Jackson’s injury lingers

On Wednesday, Turgeon seemed confident that Jackson had recovered from the shoulder injury that had kept him out the previous two games before the break for final exams.

Saying that the 6-foot-7 sophomore forward would likely play against FDU unless he had another setback at practice that day, Jackson went through warmups before a team spokesman announced that he was out.

The reason: shoulder soreness.

It’s unknown whether this has contributed to the preseason All-Big Ten selection’s slow start offensively, but it could become a problem once league play resumes against Penn State on Jan. 2.

Even so, Jackson is missing time to get his game back to the level it was when he was a freshman.

“Justin had a good week of practice,” Turgeon said. “I think he’s getting better. I think he’s getting more confident. We’re just fortunate that we’re able to rest him during this time. I think it’ll help us, come league play.”

Tyler DeSue, the only quarterback Maryland signed in the 2018 class, should get opportunity to show what he can do in spring practice.

Fernando looks healthy

During the same teleconference when Turgeon announced that Jackson was close to 100 percent, he also said Fernando still had some lingering soreness in the right ankle he sprained two weeks ago.

Fernando didn’t look hobbled in the least. Unlike when he came back from a high sprain of the left ankle in the preseason and looked a bit out of sync in the season opener against Stony Brook, the 6-foot-10 Angolan moved well and seemed to have slowed his game for the better.

During Maryland's big first-half run, Fernando was particularly active at both ends of the court.

Fernando took a short pass from Huerter in the lane and converted easily, made a pair of free throws after getting fouled and then blocked a putback by 6-5 forward Noah Morgan at the rim, starting a fast break that led to a 3-point shot by Cowan.

“It’s nice to have Bruno back,” Huerter said. “Bruno covers so many of our mistakes defensively. A guy gets by you, and you know he’s going to go up and block a shot. He scared me a couple of times. There was a chase down on a goaltend and I was yelling at him not to get hurt again. Hopefully he can build on it.”

The Maryland football team signed 22 players, including 15 from the DMV, to its 2018 recruiting class Wednesday.

Turnovers still a plenty

While Maryland’s turnovers didn't affect the outcome of the game, they certainly affected the margin of victory. The Terps committed 17, right around their season average. This remains the biggest problem for Turgeon’s team headed toward Big Ten Conference play.

“I think it’s the lineups I’m having to play,” Turgeon said. “I woke up this morning thinking I had a full team. It’s one of those deals. We had setbacks. Jared Nickens is out there running [at power forward]; he doesn’t really practice that a lot. Anthony practiced two days since the Catholic game [because of strep throat]. His rhythm is a little bit lost. Some of them are maddening, but for the most part, when we’re good, we’re good. When we have to concentrate we’re pretty good.”

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