In the aftermath of the Maryland men’s basketball team’s disappointing 67-51 loss at Clemson last Wednesday, senior guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) and junior guard Aaron Wiggins were among players who sent encouraging words to a team group chat.
“They sent messages in the group chat like, ‘Hey guys, we’ve been here before. The season has a lot of highs and low,’” senior guard Reese Mona said Sunday. “Coach [Mark] Turgeon always says, ‘You can’t get too high, can’t get too low.’ So that’s something, we can’t get too low, bounce right back. And like Darryl said, we’ve been here before. We’ve taken tough losses before. It’s about how you bounce back, how you respond. So we’re just looking forward to this Rutgers, can’t wait to play and a bounce back.”
The Terps got a taste of what life in the Big Ten Conference will be like again, and after their showing at Clemson, the team has turned its attention to its conference schedule, which begins Monday night when it hosts No. 21 Rutgers.
Maryland struggled to form any sort of offensive flow in the first half against Clemson, shooting 26% from the field at halftime. After the game, Turgeon said he didn’t have his players ready to play against the Tigers’ physical defense.
The loss, the first of the season after a 4-0 start, was discouraging, but Turgeon and the players said that the season is young and it could be a good learning experience.
“I feel like it’s brought us all together closer because it was kind of an eye-opener for us,” said senior forward Galin Smith, a transfer from Alabama. “I feel like it’s brought a lot of us closer and the older guys, us coming together even closer and trying to bring the team together and try to do what we have to do to be able to lead the team in the right direction so we can be prepared for league play.”
Said Turgeon: “I think sometimes it’s good early in the year to get punched in the mouth and kind of really figure out where you are and that did it. We’ll see, we have a long ways to go in a lot of areas. But the guys responded the right way and we know we have a really good Rutgers team coming in here [Monday]. All you can do is try to learn it from and get better and I think we’ve down that.”
Rutgers senior unlikely to play Monday
Rutgers might be without one of its top scorers from last season in senior guard Geo Baker, who injured his ankle in the team’s season opener.
Baker, who averaged almost 11 points per game last year, has yet to play since suffering the injury but returned to practice Saturday. The absence of Baker, who was a third-team All-Big Ten selection in 2019, would be a big blow to the Scarlet Knights, who are off to a 4-0 start.
But Rutgers has done well to compensate for his loss. Three players are averaging at least 16 points, led by junior guard Ron Harper, who is averaging 22 points per game.
“We’re preparing like he’s going to play some,” Turgeon said. “They’re really good without him and they’ll even be better with him down the road. We’re just worried about us right now. We’ve got enough problems. We’ve got to figure ourselves out.”
Choppy start for Chol
Sophomore center Chol Marial had an encouraging start to his second season at College Park, playing a career-high 17 minutes and recording seven points and two blocks, also career highs, against Old Dominion. But since then, he’s struggled, particularly on the defensive side against smaller lineups.
Marial played just five minutes against Clemson and only recorded one rebound. Turgeon has said that as the team enters Big Ten play and faces bigger lineups, he hopes Marial can have a big impact.
At 7-foot-2, Marial is by far the Terps’ tallest player and the only one in Turgeon’s rotation who stands taller than 6-foot-9. Turgeon said before the season that the one-time five-star recruit was beginning to look like the player he was in high school before injuries derailed him.
“Rutgers [has] a couple big kids. Our next Big Ten game is Purdue, they’ve got a couple really big kids. We need Chol,” Turgeon said. “He’s working hard. I can’t ask any more as far as extra work or things that we think he needs to get better at and just making him comfortable.
“But defensively is where we’re asking for the most help out of him and hopefully he gets a little more comfortable and is able to do that as we move forward.”
Turgeon reacts to Keyontae Johnson
Turgeon gave his well wishes to Florida’s Keyontae Johnson, who collapsed coming out of a timeout against rival Florida State and needed emergency medical attention Saturday. Johnson was taken off the floor on a stretcher and rushed to Tallahassee Memorial for evaluation. The team said he was in critical but stable condition and later said he would remain in the hospital overnight.
Like many of his Florida teammates, Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 during the summer. Although the cause of Johnson’s ailment was not immediately known, the coronavirus can lead to myocarditis, a viral infection of the heart muscle. At its most severe, myocarditis can lead to sudden cardiac arrest and has been a documented cause of death for young, otherwise healthy athletes.
Johnson’s health scare brought back concerns from many, most notably Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski over the NCAA’s decision to play the season during the surging coronavirus pandemic.
“I don’t think it feels right to anybody,” Krzyzewski said last week before the Blue Devils canceled the rest of their nonconference schedule. “Basically, it was the mentality of, ‘Get as many games in as possible.’ I would just like for the safety, the mental and physical health of players and staff to assess where we’re at.”
Turgeon, who said he met Johnson’s family while recruiting him in high school, did not answer directly when asked if Johnson’s situation made him question the decision play the season. The Terps had their own coronavirus scare in the offseason, with several players testing positive.
“I don’t know much else. I know he’s in the hospital,” Turgeon said. “But I came to work this morning and I don’t know anything else. I’m just praying for him and his family and hoping for the best.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Big Ten opener
NO. 21 RUTGERS@MARYLAND
Monday, 6 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM