3-point shots: Observations and opinions from Maryland's loss at Syracuse

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A year ago, the Maryland men’s basketball team got off to a school-record 20-2 start largely on its ability to close out games, win its share of nonconference matchups played in neutral settings and win road games early in the Big Ten season.

After losing two-point games to St. Bonaventure in the opening round of the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Fla., on Friday and to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome on Monday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Terps are 6-2 going into the start of league play Friday at home against Purdue.


Maryland loses for its second time in three games on a two-stop extended road trip.

The two losses — including in Maryland’s first true road game — means coach Mark Turgeon’s team will have to build its NCAA tournament resume almost entirely in the Big Ten, which the Terps did their first two years in the league.

Here are three observations and opinions from Maryland’s 72-70 loss to to the Orange:


1. Turgeon should consider starting either Bruno Fernando or Darryl Morsell — or even both of his freshmen.

After starting different lineups in the first five games, Turgeon opened with the same lineup the past two games, playing senior center Michal Cekovsky and redshirt junior guard Dion Wiley alongside sophomores Kevin Huerter, Justin Jackson and Anthony Cowan Jr.

While the Terps got off to a torrid start in Saturday’s 80-65 win over New Mexico in the consolation game in Florida — Maryland led 27-3, with Cekovsky starting the game with a dunk and Wiley hitting two 3-point shots as well as making a three-point play — Monday was different.

It wasn’t the offense that hurt the Terps, as Maryland and Syracuse seemed to trade baskets for most of the first half, but the defense was the problem. Turgeon said after the game that allowing so many layups in the first 12 minutes was the difference in the outcome.

Fernando is not only Maryland’s best inside scorer, he is clearly its best rim protector as well. His team-high 19 blocks are 10 more than Cekovsky’s nine. Morsell has already become Maryland’s best on-the-ball defender, and one of its best all-around players.

Since the two freshmen also give the Terps a big lift emotionally off the bench, Turgeon might not want to lose that once Big Ten play begins. Starting either of them might help defensively at the start without losing that.

Starting both could help Maryland overcome even more.

After struggling against St. Bonaventure's zone in its first loss of the season, Maryland will face an bigger challenge in Syracuse.

2. The three sophomores are going to have to play even more than they did a year ago for Maryland to be successful.

Huerter, Cowan and Jackson played 37 minutes each against Syracuse — the most the three had logged together in the same game in their careers.

It was the most Jackson had ever played, tied the most Cowan had ever played and was one minute less than Huerter played in Maryland’s comeback win over Bucknell earlier this month.

Playing against Syracuse’s zone might not be as physically draining as playing a team that likes to run. Still, it can wear a team down mentally and cause players to make mistakes at the end.

Given his shooting performance in the second half, when he made four of five 3-point shots — one seemingly deeper than the next — Huerter looked remarkably fresh down the stretch. The only 3-point shot Huerter missed after halftime was a 90-foot desperation heave at the buzzer. He finished with a season-high 23 points.


Despite missing the second of two free throws with a little under six minutes left and the Terps up one, and then making a crucial turnover with 30 seconds left and Maryland down two, so did Cowan.

It’s hard to tell sometimes with Jackson, whose energy level is not as consistent as his fellow sophomores. But after missing a layup with a little over four minutes left, Jackson seemed to disappear. Even though he only scored eight points, he had eight points and five assists, as well as four turnovers.

That was something Jackson did toward the end of his freshman year, when he seemed to wear down. Given how much Turgeon needs the 6-foot-7 Canadian for his team to be successful, that can’t keep happening.

Unless the Terps get either Wiley or senior wing Jared Nickens to give them consistent production rather than just occasional bursts, or Fernando can stay out of foul trouble to become a solid offensive option every night, it’s going to mean the Terps will ultimately need their three sophomores to carry them the rest of the season.

Anthony Cowan scored 21 points to pace Maryland as the Terps topped New Mexico 80-65 in the Emerald Coast Classic consolation game Saturday.

3. Playing in the environment of the Carrier Dome should help the Terps as they go on the road in the Big Ten.

After playing in what was essentially a high school gym in the tournament in Florida over the weekend, the Terps found themselves in one of college basketball’s most raucous arenas Monday.

For the most part, Maryland handled it well, often quieting the crowd announced at over 20,000 with a big shot or a defensive stop when it appeared as if the Orange were going to pull away.

Even though Turgeon’s team lost the game — mostly at the free-throw line (13-for-20 overall, just 6-for-11 in the second half) but also with critical turnovers by Cowan and Morsell — what the Terps did well can be taken to Illinois on Sunday for their Big Ten road opener.

A year ago, Maryland’s 12-6 Big Ten record was something of an anomaly in college basketball. The Terps were better on the road (7-2) than they were at home (5-4).

While the Terps have vowed to protect their home court better than they did last season, starting Friday against the Boilermakers, they also need to win their share again on the road.

What happened Monday at Syracuse might point to Maryland continuing that road success.

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