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Instant analysis: Maryland overcomes slow start to beat Radford, 78-64, in nonconference finale

Maryland needed nearly the entire first half to get its first lead over Radford on Saturday night at Xfinity Center. It took only a fraction of that in the second half for the Terps to gain control of their final nonconference game this season.

After leading by two points at halftime and then trailing by three early in the second half, sophomore center Bruno Fernando led Maryland on a 34-9 run en route to a 78-64 victory.

Fernando finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds. his second straight double double and sixth of the season. Freshman guard Eric Ayala scored 14 points for the Terps (10-3) and sophomore guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) added 13.

Junior guard Travis Fields Jr. led Radford (7-6) with 22 points — hitting eight of 13 shots overall and four of five 3-pointers — while redshirt sophomore guard Carlik Jones added 20 points and eight assists.

The victory helped Maryland erase whatever bad taste was lingering — either for the Terps or their fans — from a four-point loss at home to Seton Hall a week before.

Most of it was the result of a strong second half, particularly by Fernando, who was too strong, tall and quick for Radford. Maryland also improved its shooting in the second half, hitting 14 of 25 overall and four of nine 3-pointers.

The victory gave the Terps some momentum going into the restart of the Big Ten schedule. Maryland plays Nebraska on Wednesday at home before going on the road to play Rutgers next Saturday.

It didn’t look as if the Terps would have an easy time against the Highlanders, who made the NCAA tournament last season and had road victories earlier this season at Notre Dame and then-No. 17 Texas.

Playing without freshman forward Jalen Smith, who sat out the game with an illness, the Terps got off to another slow start. Little-used redshirt sophomore Joshua Tomaic started in place of the former Mount Saint Joseph star.

The Highlanders hit eight of their first nine shots, scoring on their first eight possessions and led by as many as nine points, 19-10, before they cooled off and the Terps climbed back.

A 3-point shot by freshman wing Aaron Wiggins with a little under three minutes left in the half gave Maryland its first lead of the game, 31-30. The Terps led at halftime, 34-32.

Maryland fell behind again as Radford scored on its first three second-half possessions to go up 39-36, before the 34-9 run led by Fernando helped Maryland build its first double-digit lead of the game.

INSTANT ANALYSIS: If this trend of starting games slowly continues in the Big Ten, the Terps are going to be in a lot of trouble the rest of the season. While Smith’s absence had something to do with the slow start, especially at defensive end, coach Mark Turgeon’s team needs to be ready at the tip.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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