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Maryland men’s basketball uses late 21-0 run to pull away from Mount St. Mary’s, 79-61

COLLEGE PARK — In the nascent portion of the Maryland men’s basketball team’s 2020 season, late first-half runs defined the Terps’ first two wins against Old Dominion and Navy.

They had won both games by a combined 48 points and seemed poised for a similar trajectory Sunday afternoon against Mount St. Mary’s. But with under nine minutes remaining in the second half, the Terps found themselves down 58-56 to a Mountaineers team that entered the game as KenPom’s 261st-ranked squad.

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Maryland promptly put together a 21-0 run to pull away from Mount St. Mary’s for a 79-61 win. The last time the Terps had a run of 20 or more points was against Fairleigh Dickinson in 2017.

“I’d welcome a game like that where we were actually behind in the second half and have to gut it out, which was great to see our guys [do],” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “We got in foul trouble with [senior forward] Galin [Smith] and we kind of figured it out. So, it’s good experience for us, it’s going to help us down the road.”

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Sophomore forward Donta Scott, who set his career high for the second time this week with 17 points, began the scoring streak with a pair of free throws. Junior forward Jairus Hamilton (13 points) then hit a 3-pointer on the wing.

By the time a wide-open layup by Scott and another 3-pointer by junior Eric Ayala (15 points) prompted Mountaineers coach Dan Engelstad to call a timeout in search of answers, the Terps were on a 10-0 run and had seized all the momentum.

Five Terps scored in double figures for the second consecutive game as Maryland (3-0) shot just under 60% from the field, hit seven of 19 3-point attempts and made all 10 of its free-throw tries.

Mount St. Mary’s (1-2) led by as many as nine points in the first half off the strength of strong shooting from senior guard Jalen Gibbs. He made four of five 3-point attempts in the first half and finished with a team-high 19 points.

Sophomore center Chol Marial got the first start of his career while Hamilton returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench against Navy.

It was a rough early stretch for Marial (two points in six minutes), who was yanked for Smith a few minutes into the game after he gave up two baskets in the paint and then was called for an illegal screen.

“It was a tough game for him ... lot of ball screens and he was always just a step behind,” Turgeon said. “He’ll be better against bigger teams, more conventional teams, you’d like to think he would be better in those games.”

After Maryland went the first 12 minutes of the game without a 3-pointer, sophomore guard Hakim Hart hit two in about a 60-second span. After recording a career-high 11 points again Navy, Hart’s only points came from the two 3′s, but they were crucial. His second gave Maryland its first lead of the game, 28-26, with six minutes left in the half.

Ayala scored his first 10 points in the final five minutes of the half — a 10-2 Maryland run — and the Terps held a 41-32 lead at halftime.

Mount St. Mary’s fought back in the second half; a fadeaway 3-pointer by junior guard Damian Chong Qui (McDonogh) over Maryland’s zone defense tied the game at 56 with under 10 minutes to go.

The Mountaineers’ run led Turgeon to scrap the zone defense and revert to more press and man-to-man defense.

“That was frustrating because they were making a lot of those shots today,” Turgeon said. “That got me out of the zone and [I] said, ‘Let’s start pressuring again and get our guys going.’ I didn’t like the energy that we were playing with and so we just started pressuring. And then we did a good job of guarding the ball late in the shot clock.”

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After a media timeout, junior forward Jalen Jefferson’s jump shot gave the Mountaineers a two-point lead but they didn’t record another field goal for the remaining 8:57.

“I think us just being active with our hands and stuff,” Ayala said of the late defensive effort. “We kind of switched up our defenses. We pressed a little bit and kind of went to halfcourt defenses, just constantly switching it up. Coach kind of talked about that going into the game. He wants to throw out multiple defenses and I think it helped us in that realm.”

Smith (four points, four rebounds) picked up his fourth foul with 10 minutes left, forcing Maryland to go with a smaller lineup of Darryl Morsell (10 points, four rebounds, two blocks), Aaron Wiggins (12 points, four rebounds, two steals), Ayala, Scott and Hamilton. While lacking dominant size, the group made up for it with versatile pieces who provided stifling defense and balanced scoring during the 21-point run.

“It’s not a lineup we practice a lot but it’s going to be a lineup we probably play more as the season goes on,” Turgeon said.

“We’re a deep basketball team and that helps. And I think we wear teams down a little.”

TOWSON@MARYLAND

Tuesday, 7 p.m.

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM

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