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Three takeaways from Maryland men’s basketball’s 81-67 win against Brown

Two days removed from banging his right knee against a Lehigh opponent’s knee that forced him to miss the final nine minutes of Tuesday night’s 76-55 rout, starting point guard Fatts Russell made a triumphant return, racking up 18 points, five assists and three rebounds to propel the Maryland men’s basketball team to an 81-67 victory over visiting Brown on Thursday night.

From the starters’ dominant showing to the team’s continuing troubles in the first half to Hakim Hart’s ability to make an impact on both ends of the floor, here are three takeaways from the Terps’ win before an announced 10,224 at the Xfinity Center in College Park.

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The starters carried the offense

The team has frequently shown no reservations about going deep on its bench to spell its starters. And reserves such as graduate student shooting guard Xavier Green, sophomore shooting guard Ian Martinez, freshman power forward Julian Reese (St. Frances) and graduate student small forward Simon Wright have usually made healthy contributions.

That was not the case against the Bears as that foursome combined for two points on 1-for-5 shooting, three rebounds, two assists, one block, four turnovers and 10 fouls — including five on Reese, who fouled out with 2:09 left in the game.

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The starting lineup of Russell, senior shooting guard Eric Ayala, junior shooting guard Hakim Hart, junior power forward Donta Scott and junior center Qudus Wahab accounted for the remaining 79 points on 27-for-53 shooting, 37 rebounds, 11 assists, six steals, two blocks, seven turnovers and 11 fouls. Interim coach Danny Manning did not seem too worried about over-relying on the starters.

“That was working for us today,” he said. “Normally, we get a little more bench production, and today we didn’t have it. But also, the guys on the court, they had the ball. We’re off tomorrow. So they can be tired tomorrow. We knew that we had to do whatever we had to do to get the game. Julian didn’t score the ball well, but he was still productive in his minutes in terms of his plus/minus out there on the court, and we’ve just got to find different ways to get contributions across the board. I thought our starting group did a really good job in terms of, especially in that second half, ball movement, making shots, and we got stops.”

Hart pointed out that many of the aforementioned players are capable of taking center stage and that depth is an asset for Maryland (8-4).

“Just finding our chemistry by playing inside-out,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of players that play with power and can finish with ease. That just makes it easier.”

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For the eighth time in 12 games, the Terps found themselves saddled with a halftime deficit after Brown carved out a 39-35 lead in the first 20 minutes.
For the eighth time in 12 games, the Terps found themselves saddled with a halftime deficit after Brown carved out a 39-35 lead in the first 20 minutes. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, Part 1

For the eighth time in 12 games, the Terps found themselves saddled with a halftime deficit after Brown carved out a 39-35 lead in the first 20 minutes. The Terps had been 3-4 in the previous seven games when trailing at halftime, including dropping their last three.

For the season, Maryland has been outscored 394-387 in the first half. In the second half, the Terps have outscored opposing teams 457-396.

Perhaps that’s a positive sign that the Terps are a second-half team that can climb out of any hole they dig. But it seems even Manning comprehends that formula does not have much lasting power.

“We have to do a better job of coming out and getting started,” he said. “The one thing we’ll continue to harp on with our guys is being disruptive defensively and not letting teams get into their flow. In the last two games, Lehigh and Brown, those guys got into a flow offensively, and once good players get into a flow, it’s hard to slow them down. So we have to do a much better job of slowing guys down.”

If Manning is concerned, his players remain a confident bunch that remains resolute that it can fix whatever problems keep cropping up in the first half. Maryland hopes to rewrite the script as it prepares to dive further into the Big Ten portion of its schedule with a road game at Iowa (10-3) on Monday night.

“These last two games were a good test before we get into Big Ten play,” Russell said. “We feel like we’re ready for it. We’re just going to keep working every day to prepare for our next opponent.”

After running into Brown Bears guard Paxson Wojcik (behind, who reaches up), Maryland Terrapins guard Hakim Hart holds out his hands for help from teammates after trying to score during the first half of NCAA men's basketball in College Park Thursday., Dec. 30, 2021. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)
After running into Brown Bears guard Paxson Wojcik (behind, who reaches up), Maryland Terrapins guard Hakim Hart holds out his hands for help from teammates after trying to score during the first half of NCAA men's basketball in College Park Thursday., Dec. 30, 2021. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff) (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, Part 2

Hart’s versatility continues to pay dividends for the Terps.

Not only did he score 17 points — including 11 in the second half — Thursday night, but Hart also collected four rebounds, four assists and two steals. His contributions on both ends of the floor continue to impress Manning.

“He’s one of our glue pieces, if you will, and that’s not a knock on him because he does everything well,” he said. “That’s part of the reason why he has that adjective associated with his style of play. He can play the point, he can play the [shooting guard position], he can play the [small forward role]. If we go small, he can play the [power forward spot]. He knows all the plays. He’s an efficient player. Tonight, he only gets nine shots, but he makes six of them. He knocks down a three, he had four assists.”

Hart’s workload also included the task of marking Brown graduate student small forward Tamenang Choh, who scored 18 points in the first half shooting 5-for-9 from the field and 7-for-8 from the free-throw line. In the second half, Choh was limited to seven points on 3-for-6 shooting and did not get to the free-throw line.

Hart was his usual concise self describing his defensive skills.

“Just by using my wide length and sliding my feet, I think guys have a hard time,” he said. “And playing the shot with a high hand.”

Bears coach Michael Martin credited Hart with making Choh work for opportunities in the second half.

“I thought he stepped up to that challenge, and you have to credit him,” Martin said. “I know they’re not ranked now, but they’re a preseason nationally ranked team for a reason. They’ve got really good players, really good pieces and experienced talent. That’s a pretty good combination.”

MARYLAND@IOWA

Monday, 9 p.m.

TV: Big Ten Network Radio: 105.7 FM

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