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3 takeaways from No. 5 Maryland’s 80-73 victory over Harvard in the semifinals of the Orlando Invitational

From the late burst by Aaron Wiggins to another guard having a big scoring night against the Terps, here are three takeaways from No. 5 Maryland’s 80-73 win over Harvard:

Maryland needs Aaron Wiggins to play up to his potential

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Throughout the preseason, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon talked about how the 6-foot-6 sophomore wing was in the best physical shape of any Terp because of his maniacal workout schedule since his freshman year ended. Along with the 20 pounds of muscle he put on his upper body, Wiggins had seemingly become a much more confident player as well.

Seven games into the season, Wiggins has struggled with his outside shot and, as a result, with his confidence. While he has better overall numbers aside from scoring than he did as a freshman — 5.0 rebounds compared to 3.3, 2.0 steals to 0.8 and 1.8 assists to 0.8 — his cold-shooting start on 3-pointers to his sophomore year (9 of 32) has kept his overall scoring only slightly higher (9.7 compared to 8.3).

It started in the season opener against Holy Cross when Wiggins missed all six 3-pointers he tried, and he also messed up a couple of potential lob dunks. While he has had some good overall performances — including his first career double double with 13 points and 13 rebounds against Rhode Island — he has yet to take the next step as a dependable third scoring option behind Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith.

Which is why what Wiggins did in the final 10 minutes against Harvard not only helped Maryland survive a potential upset by a team ranked No. 91 in Kenpom.com, but it could lead to Wiggins becoming a breakout performer in the Big Ten, something the Terps might need in order to make a legitimate challenge for a regular-season or postseason championship.

Cowan’s one-man burst during a 12-2 run that enabled Maryland to overcome what had been a seven-point deficit early in the second half — the senior guard scored 10 points and assisted on a dunk by Smith — was not a surprise, especially a day after he put up a career-high 30 against Temple. The 10-3 run led by Wiggins a little later that put the Terps in control for good was a bit of a revelation on how much he has improved.

In a span of a little over two minutes, Wiggins drove the lane, turned and fired a pass to Smith for another dunk for a 63-59 lead. A short time later, Cowan stole the ball in the backcourt, raced to the basket and put up a slightly contested layup that rolled off the rim. Trailing on the play, Wiggins lightly dunked the ball back in. He ended the run with a 3-pointer from the corner.

“Cowan is kind of the focal point, the catalyst, you focus on that [defensively] and you have so much attention on him in certain areas, how deep he can shoot the ball,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “Their wing players, [Darryl] Morsell and Wiggins, they find ways to be very effective to hurt you. They really can become the difference most of the time. The tip dunk was a big play."

What Turgeon wanted to see was the 3-pointer drop in.

“It’s a relief because he’s a really good shooter and he’s a big part of what we do," Turgeon said. “For some reason he’s been a little tight shooting the ball. It hasn’t affected his defense and his rebounding and his leadership and his communication has been great. When he made it in the corner, it was like, ‘All right we’re going to win this game’ because it put us up seven and gave everybody confidence on this team.”

Turgeon needs to not force-feed his freshmen as much as he’s been doing

Since the season started, Turgeon has been using 11 players in his regular rotation, trying to get his younger big men, in particular 6-10 center Makhi Mitchell and his twin brother Makhel, as well 6-7 forward Donta Scott, some valuable court time so all of them will be ready once the Big Ten season begins. He has also found regular minutes for another freshman, 6-6 wing Hakim Hart.

There were a few possessions Friday when Turgeon had three of the freshmen — Scott, Hart and Makhi Mitchell — on the floor with sophomores Eric Ayala and Ricky Lindo Jr. It came at a time when Harvard, which had jumped to a 9-0 lead, seemed on the verge of expanding what was then a 15-7 lead.

Makhi Mitchell, who started his second straight game but had come out earlier after picking up two fouls a little over a minute into the game, gave the Terps a physical presence against Harvard senior Chris Lewis and helped get Lewis into second-half foul trouble. Scott, who wound up playing 19 1/2 minutes off the bench, seemed to be in a rush most of the night with the exception of a 3-pointer he made.

Neither Hart nor Makhel Mitchell got much run against Harvard, and probably won’t against Marquette in Sunday’s finale. If Lindo and and fellow sophomore Serrel Smith Jr. weren’t playing as tentatively as they have, Turgeon wouldn’t even have to count on Hart and Makhel Mitchell as much. At some point, Turgeon is going to have to decide whether it’s just better to take a loss rather than not getting all his freshman experience.

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And if Lindo and Serrel Smith are struggling, it might just be better to shorten his bench and go with his top seven or eight players rather than compromise some of the rhythm among his starters or put out a lineup that’s virtually without a legitimate scorer. Unless Turgeon can get some sort of consistency from his players off the bench beyond Ayala, eventually it’s going to come to that anyway once the Terps start playing in the Big Ten.

What are the Terps going to do with Markus Howard?

After Temple’s Alani Moore II and Harvard’s Bryce Aiken combined for 52 points in the two Maryland victories — including 30 by Aiken on Friday — it’s hard to image how the Terps will be able to stop, or even slow down, Marquette scoring machine Markus Howard in Sunday’s championship game. Howard, who finished fifth in the country last year averaging 25 points a game, has scored 91 points — including 51 against USC on Friday — so far here.

“I’m glad he had 50,” Turgeon joked after this team’s workout Saturday. “It’s hard to have back-to-back 50s. We’ll see. He might. I knew Aiken was going to do what he did yesterday. When you have that number in front of you, guys get pretty excited to play against you and make shots. ”

Morsell usually draws the other team’s best scorer, and typically holds his own. While Moore and Aiken might have been a tad too quick for Morsell, Howard’s strength is his shooting. Perhaps the best Maryland can hope is that Morsell can stop Howard enough that his teammates - including possibly walk-on Reese Mona, whose relentless defense is reminiscent of former walk-on Varun Ram - can help him in order to take the title back to College Park.

In the two tournament games at HP Field House, Howard has made 25 of 50 overall from the field, including 14 of 27 on 3-pointers. He also hit 27 of 32 free throws, which means he’s getting the kind of calls former Maryland star Melo Trimble got his freshman year and even Cowan received at times earlier in his own career.

He became the first Big East player to score more than 40 in consecutive games and joined Wayman Tisdale and the legendary Pete Maravich as the first major conference player to score 50 in three straight seasons.

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Morsell did a pretty good job on Belmont star Dylan Windler in last year’s NCAA tournament opener, and Windler, who is now with the Cleveland Cavaliers, still went for 35 points on 11-of-17 shooting, including 7 of 14 behind the 3-point line. Not only will Morsell get a bulk of the time on Howard, but he will also likely be asked to shut down, or least slow down, Myles Powell, when Maryland plays Seton Hall on Dec. 18.

“It’s definitely going to be a team effort, can’t no individual stop a player like that,” Morsell said Saturday. “Hopefully we’re going to be locked in and my team is there to help me if I’m assigned with that [task].”

Orlando Invitational championship

NO. 6 MARYLAND VS. MARQUETTE

Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: ESPN Radio: 105.7 FM

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