UNCASVILLE, Conn. — A perfect start to the season and a championship — not a bad way for a coach to begin his career at Maryland.
However, after Sunday’s 88-70 victory over Miami (Fla.) in the title game of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic, Kevin Willard had the big picture in mind.
“We’re really not worried about signature wins or where we are — we still have a long ways to go,” said Willard, who has the Terps off to a 5-0 start for the first time since the 2019-20 season. “We’re good, we have great players, but they’re still trying to learn this system and they’re still trying to get comfortable.”
Donta Scott sure looked comfortable at Mohegan Sun Arena for the second straight game. The senior forward scored 24 points with eight rebounds to lead a balanced Terps attack that had all five starters finish in double figures. Maryland shot 60% (30-for-50) from the field and 42.9% (9-for-21) from beyond the arc.
Scott scored 49 points — including a career-high 25 against Saint Louis — to earn all-tournament honors along with Hakim Hart (14 points). Julian Reese added 17 points, Jahmir Young had 13 and Donald Carey finished with 12.
The Terps captured their 33rd regular-season tournament championship and first since the 2019 Orlando Invitational.
Isaiah Wong led Miami (4-1) with 22 points.
“When we move the ball side-to-side, we can get pretty much anything we want in the options,” Carey said. “We are a selfless team, so all the options are great options for us.”
Playing at the state’s second largest casino, all the options were paying off for the Terps once again. Maryland dominated the glass and outrebounded the Hurricanes, 39-20; it scored inside and out, and the defense made life miserable for another opponent.
“We didn’t have the same energy as we had yesterday and Maryland took it right to us,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “They were the aggressors from start to finish, and the one clear statistic that shows that is they got 39 rebounds to our 20.
“We really got crushed inside.”
The offensive rebounds (11) were huge for Maryland, with it resulting in 18 second-chance points, which turned out to be the margin of victory.
“We’ve talked about it all year so far, if we can rebound at a high level, we can be pretty good,” Willard said.
It was a historic opening half for Scott, who recorded his 1,000th point on a foul shot with 1:25 remaining to become the 17th Terp to have 1,000 points with 500 rebounds. Darryl Morsell (1,090 points and 510 rebounds from 2018 to 2021) and Anthony Cowan (1,881 points and 508 rebounds from 2017 to 2020) were the most recent Terps to accomplish it.
Scott, who came in with 986 points, scored 15 points in the half to give Maryland a 47-34 lead.
The Terps stayed hot from the perimeter, hitting 7 of 13 in the first half. Carey made two and Scott added another on an 11-0 run that gave Maryland a 25-15 lead with 10:47 to go in the half.
“I think we are ahead defensively, but as I’ve been getting to know these guys and know their personalities, they are smart basketball players, so that has really helped with what we are trying to do on the defensive end,” Willard said. “I think offensively as they start to realize the more the ball gets side to side, the more we get the second options, I think we’re becoming a very good offensive team.”
Maryland came in 6 of 39 in its previous two games from the perimeter but found its stroke in Connecticut as the Terps went 13-for-32 against the Billikens on Saturday.
Miami picked up almost a third of its points off Maryland’s mistakes, turning 11 turnovers into 12 points. Wong had 11 points and Norchad Omier added 10 as the Hurricanes shot 41.9% (13-for-31) from the field.
Reese, who was held to a season-low four points mainly due to foul trouble against Saint Louis, picked up two quick baskets in the opening half but did most of his damage after the break. He scored 10 points there as Maryland’s offense went inside for 24 of its 41 points and maintained a double-digit lead throughout.
Overall, the Terps outscored Miami, 40-32, in the paint.
The Terps led by 19 points, 62-43, with 14:06 left but had to withstand a surge from the Hurricanes. Miami would cut that deficit to 10, 73-63, with 6:30 remaining by breaking off a 6-0 run as Maryland went scoreless for 2:31.
Young stopped the Hurricanes’ spurt with a three-point play, converting his free throw after being fouled on a driving layup to push the lead to 13. Carey then dropped his fourth 3-pointer and Reese was fouled on a dunk to push the margin to 81-63 with 3:29 left.
The victory made Maryland 10-13 all-time in the series, which dates back to 1949.
Coppin State at Maryland
Friday, 4 p.m.
Radio: 105.7 FM