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Terps

No. 23 Maryland men’s basketball surges past Coppin State, 95-79, to stay unbeaten

COLLEGE PARK — After dismantling five straight opponents, No. 23 Maryland men’s basketball found itself in a tight game Friday afternoon against Coppin State.

Led by coach Juan Dixon, the former Maryland star who guided the program to a national championship in 2002, the Eagles traded baskets with the Terps before using a 9-0 run in the middle of the first quarter to take a three-point lead.

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For Maryland to create some separation, the Terps turned to forward Julian Reese, who continued to prove sophomore slumps are nothing but superstition.

Reese scored a career-high 24 points and added 10 rebounds and two blocks to lead the Terps to 95-79 victory at Xfinity Center. Senior guard Hakim Hart had 22 points and eight rebounds, and transfer guard Jahmir Young added 21 points, five rebounds and five assists as the Terps shot 48.5% from the field.

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“[Reese] was a monster,” first-year coach Kevin Willard said.

Reese’s first-half performance was a work of art, as he totaled 22 points on 9-for-9 shooting and collected eight rebounds. The former St. Frances standout took advantage of Coppin State’s lack of size, backing down defenders in the post and attacking the glass. With Maryland (6-0) trailing 22-21 with 9:09 to go in the first half, Reese scored 18 points in seven minutes to give the Terps a seven-point advantage with two minutes left in the half.

The Maryland bench erupts as guard Ian Martinez throws down a slam dunk above Coppin State guard CJ Scott during the second half of Friday's game in College Park.

Reese knew he had the size advantage, but didn’t expect to dominate in the first half like he did. “But as the game went on, I started feeling it and I was getting more touches,” he said.

Maryland never looked back. The Terps opened the second half on a 6-0 run that expanded their lead to 55-43. After Coppin State (3-5) trimmed the deficit to six, Reese and the Eagles’ Isaiah Gross got into an altercation, resulting in both players receiving technical fouls. Maryland’s bench was also issued a technical foul, which led to the ejection of assistant coaches Tony Skinn and Grant Billmeier. The afternoon featured six technical fouls, including five in the second half.

“I feel like teams like that they understand that the talent level is different and they try to do things outside of basketball to get the edge,” Reese said. “I feel like we handled it well.”

The fracas provided Maryland a much-needed spark, as the Terps went on a 17-7 run that ended with Young lobbing the ball to guard Ian Martinez (seven points), who threw down a two-handed dunk to expand the lead to 72-56 with 11:11 left.

Penn State transfer Sam Sessoms scored 28 points and Nendah Tarke and Justin Winston each added 14 to lead Coppin State.

Even though Reese only had two points in the second half due to foul trouble, he continued his strong start to the season. After struggling against Niagara and Saint Louis, Reese recorded 17 points and seven rebounds in a victory over Miami in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off championship on Nov. 20. In the past five games, he’s averaging 16.6 points.

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Friday marked his second career double-double.

“His size [was] a problem,” Dixon said. “The kid has gotten bigger [and] stronger.”

Reese’s offensive rebounding was impressive Friday. He constantly cleaned up missed shots, finishing with seven offensive boards, which he said were crucial to building momentum in the second half.

“He’s really being consistent on the offensive glass,” Willard said. “His consistency going [to the rim] has been why I think he’s doing what he’s doing.”

The Maryland bench erupts as guard Ian Martinez throws down a slam dunk above Coppin State guard CJ Scott during the second half of Friday's game in College Park.

Reese continued to show that he is not afraid of contact. He drew seven fouls against Coppin State, but Willard said he wants to see the same physicality on defense. Willard praised Reese’s size, athleticism and strong understanding of the game. At the same time, he wants Reese to understand the type of defensive presence he can be.

Reese has been essential to Maryland maintaining its early-season success under Willard. In the past, the Terps thrived when they had an interior presence. During the 2019-20 season, forward Jalen Smith averaged 15 points and 10.5 rebounds to help the Terps claim a Big Ten regular-season championship. Forward Bruno Fernando manned the post for two seasons, averaging 12 points and 8.7 rebounds while being named first-team All-Big Ten and All-Defensive Team in 2018-19.

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Last season, the Terps struggled without an interior presence. Big man Qudus Wahab, who transferred back to Georgetown after one season in College Park, was often outplayed by tougher opponents during the Terps’ first losing season since 1992-93. Reese didn’t help much as a freshman, averaging 5.7 points and occasionally showing flashes of his potential.

The Maryland bench are restrained while guard Ian Martinez (23) watches forward Julian Reese get separated from Coppin State guard Isaiah Gross (25) during the second half of Friday's game in College Park.

As Reese continues to grow into a solid rotational piece for the program, he has to do a better job at avoiding foul trouble. He picked up two fouls in the early minutes of the second half Friday, forcing him to sit on the bench for the majority of the half. The Terps went to a smaller lineup with senior Donta Scott (nine points, six rebounds) playing at center.

The Terps kept the momentum despite Reese’s absence, using incredible ball movement and quality defense to run away with the win.

“We moved Donta to the five and let our guards space out and attack,” said Willard. “It hurt us a little bit defensively, but we’re able to get in the flow offensively.”

Reese said confidence has been the key to his stretch of dominance. Each game, he strives to play with a certain level of intensity and aggression.

“I feel like if I can [continue to] play like that, I can be unstoppable,” he said.

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Big Ten/ACC Challenge

No. 23 Maryland at Louisville

Tuesday, 7 p.m.

TV: ESPN2

Radio: 105.7 FM

Coppin State at UMBC

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Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Stream: ESPN+


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