Uniondale, N.Y. — The Maryland men’s basketball team opened the 2017-2018 season with a 76-61 win Friday over Stony Brook at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Here are some thoughts on the Terps going into their home opener Sunday against UMES.
1. Maryland can be a dynamic running team if it rebounds well enough.
Two years ago, the Terps played some of their best basketball when they rebounded and ran. The problem was that too many front-court players liked to leak out on the fast break, and opponents’ second-chance baskets slowed Maryland’s plans.
A year ago, the Terps didn’t have enough bigs to be a good running team, especially after Michal Cekovsky broke his ankle in mid-February. Now, with Cekovsky apparently healthy and freshman Bruno Fernando willing to hit the boards, Maryland should be able to get out and run.
What also helps is how many players can lead the break. It’s not just sophomore point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and sophomore wing Kevin Huerter; it’s also sophomore forward Justin Jackson and reserves Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) and Dion Wiley.
2. Cekovsky looks fully recovered from injury.
While Mark Turgeon talked throughout the preseason about how serious the injury the 7-foot-1 Slovakian suffered was — he needed to stabilize the broken ankle with several screws — the coach has to be impressed with the progress Cekovsky has made in recent weeks.
A year ago, when healthy, Cekosvky was one of Maryland’s most efficient offensive players, shooting 67.1 percent from the field and scoring in double figures in eight of the 11 games in which he played double-figure minutes.
Cekovsky finished with 10 points in 17 minutes Friday, making all three of his field-goal attempts (two dunks and a layup) and all four of his free throws — not bad for a player who shot about 50 percent from the line last season (19 of 37).
The Terps were a different team when he was injured last season — and not for the better. If he can stay healthy as a senior, with the addition of Fernando and graduate transfer Sean Obi, Maryland could have its most productive combination of big men in Turgeon’s seven years.
3. Playing a low-major team in a pro arena on the road was a better idea on paper than in reality.
Turgeon likes playing in the New York area, but compared with Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, even after its renovation, was probably no better a neutral site for a season opener than Royal Farms Arena.
While the crowd was mostly pro-Maryland, you never got the feeling that the Terps were playing on a home court away from home, as was the case when they played Richmond and Kansas State in Brooklyn last year.
Turgeon said he hoped the atmosphere and arena would be similar to what his team might face in the NCAA tournament. Indeed, this could be what it will look and sound like if the Terps get sent to Pittsburgh for the first two rounds — and draw the last game of the night.
Next year, Maryland opens the season at Navy in the Veterans Classic. It’s not hard to predict that that atmosphere, if not the game itself, will be a lot better than Friday’s.
Maryland isn’t totally to blame for that. Even when Dr. J and the New York Nets played at the Coliseum more than 40 years ago, most early-season games didn’t draw well.