The ball moved throughout the first half of the Maryland men’s basketball team’s game against North Carolina A&T on Monday night. The 3-point shots finally began to fall toward the end of the half. And sophomore center Bruno Fernando asserted himself inside before foul trouble stopped him again.
Maryland was able to keep up the ball movement and the 3-point shooting in the second half, but after dominating the first half with 14 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, Fernando picked up his second and third fouls 47 seconds after the break.
It didn’t matter, certainly not the way it did against Delaware in the season opener, when the Terps watched a 22-point lead shrink to just three. Even with Fernando on the bench for much of the second half, Maryland won easily, beating the Aggies, 82-59.
Leading by as many as 26 points late in the first half and by 24 at halftime, Fernando’s foul trouble allowed North Carolina A&T (0-3) to cut its deficit to 19 twice. But unlike in the opener, the crowd at Xfinity Center and coach Mark Turgeon didn’t get nervous.
Fernando returned with a little under 10 minutes to go in the second half and finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman wing Aaron Wiggins added a season-high 14 points and junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and sophomore guard guard Darryl Morsell each scored 13.
Freshman forward Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph), who earlier in the day was named the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Week, finished with 12 points and five rebounds. Freshman guard Serrel Smith Jr. scored the first seven points of his college carer.
After starting the season shooting a hard-to-fathom 7-for-42 from 3-point range and missing their first seven Monday, the Terps finally started connecting. They finished 10-for-30 from beyond the arc, including 4-for-8 for Wiggins and 4-for-9 for Cowan.
If there was anything Turgeon wouldn’t be happy with, it was his team’s second-half defense. After holding the Aggies to 10-for-30 shooting in the first half, North Carolina A&T shot 14-for-31 in the second.
Instant analysis: It’s hard to get a read on how much the Terps improved from their first two games against a team like the Aggies, who came in as the worst defensive team in terms of points per possession by KenPom.com. Like many Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference teams, A&T plays at a frenetic pace that lends itself to more of a pickup game than a college contest. Still, the Terps did look better against a zone defense than they had against either Delaware or Navy. And 33.3 percent on 3-point shooting is a lot better than 16.7 percent.