Jalen Smith rose from the Xfinity Center floor to deny a layup attempt from Fairfield’s Jesus Cruz, and with a second effort, Smith tipped the ball ahead to Maryland teammate Anthony Cowan Jr. Cowan’s own layup try didn’t fall, but Smith had followed behind, there to rebound and provide a two-handed putback flush that sparked a needed seven-point run.

It might not even have been the Terps’ best dunk of the night, as they shined near the rim and far from it in downing visiting nonconference foe Fairfield, 74-55, on Tuesday night. That honor likely went to Smith’s fellow sophomore Aaron Wiggins, who tipped a Stags pass on one side of midcourt and secured it near the sideline on the other before redirecting himself toward the basket. He streaked to the goal, delivering a powerful, one-handed dunk and drawing a foul to produce a three-point play as No. 6 Maryland repeatedly converted defense into offense.


Fairfield (1-4) answered with its third 3-pointer in as many baskets, but Wiggins scored one of his own to give Maryland a lead that would not evaporate in a fourth straight victory to open the season.

The Terps (4-0) overcame Fairfield’s uncharacteristically strong shooting night from deep. The Stags entered play ranked among the bottom 20 of 353 teams nationally in percentage of points scored on 3-pointers, per KenPom, but all but two of their first 23 points came from beyond the arc. With only 19.1% of Fairfield’s points in its first four games coming from 3-pointers, the Stags broke out with 12 made shots from deep, accounting for 36 of their 55 points. By halftime, they had seven made 3-pointers on 11 attempts, only 10 fewer than they sank total in their previous four games on more than 50 more tries.

“We thought they were a team that we could zone for 40 minutes if we had to,” coach Mark Turgeon said. "They haven’t been making shots, and they go 12-for-25 from 3, so give them credit. They handled our pressure at times really well.”

Yet the Stags missed 20 of their 26 attempts inside the arc, finishing with an overall shooting percentage of .353.

“I thought our defense was really, really good," Turgeon said. "They made some tough shots to shoot 35%.”

Maryland responded with a balanced scoring attack, both in where and who the scoring came from. Four Terps finished with at least 12 points, led by Smith’s 17, with sophomore Ricky Lindo Jr. adding a career-high 13 on a 6-for-6 shooting night and Cowan’s 12 points pushing him into the program’s top 20 for a career. Maryland matched a season high with eight 3-pointers while finishing 10-for-15 on layups, posting an 18-2 advantage in fastbreak points.

The Terps have yet to have a 20-point scorer, but at least three players have reached double-digits in every game.

“We’ve got a whole spread of offense,” Smith said. "It’s just more weapons the team has to guard.”

Tuesday’s surprising scorer was Lindo, who had 11 points total in the Terps’ first three games while dealing with what Turgeon characterized as body language issues, but Eric Ayala, another member of Maryland’s deep sophomore class who also posted 13 points, said Lindo helps him to stay even-keeled.

“What he did today, you’ll probably see it again soon,” Ayala said.

Turgeon’s only expressed concern offensively was the Terps’ struggles at the free-throw line, where they went 14-for-25. Smith, who drew eight fouls, was responsible for half of those makes.

“It was just a focus thing,” Smith said. “Everyone took a mental lapse on the free throws, and we weren’t really taking them serious, and that showed in the end.”

Leading 13-12 but facing a scoring drought of more than three minutes midway through the first half, the Terps scored five straight points, with Ayala hitting a 3 off a cross-key pass from Cowan before Darryl Morsell echoed Wiggins with a steal-and-score dunk. After Fairfield struck for its first basket from inside the arc, Smith prevented another with his block of Cruz, then followed Ayala’s second 3-pointer with two free throws to push Maryland’s lead to double-digits. When the Stags continued their 3-point prowess to drop the deficit to eight, the Terps doubled it with eight straight points, eventually taking a 41-27 advantage into the locker room.

Maryland kept Fairfield at a distance for most of the second half, with the quartet of Smith, Cowan, Ayala and Lindo scoring their first 28 points of the period. Smith, a Mount Saint Joseph product, added another dunk off an alley-oop pass from Hakim Hart, letting out a celebratory scream as the ball ricocheted back down off his left shoulder. The slam came amid another 8-0 run that built the Terps’ lead to 18.


The depth they’ve displayed will be tested in the coming weeks, as Maryland gets one final home game, Friday against George Mason, before leaving College Park for the first time for Thanksgiving weekend’s AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando.

Turgeon noted that he’s had nine players either start a game or start out of halftime, “just because you never know what’s going to happen in the season.”

“That’s over,” he added. "I know who my best five players are, but that might not be the best five to start, but they’re going to play the most minutes. After that, I’ve got to figure it out down the road. Guys have got to be more consistent for me.

"We’ll start playing for keeps now.”

George Mason@No. 6 Maryland

Friday, 7 p.m.

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM

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