Maryland started slowly again Saturday night against Radford, falling behind by as many as nine points early in the first half and watching its two-point halftime lead disappear in the Highlanders’ first three possessions of the second half.
Sophomore center Bruno Fernando then took matters into his own strong hands.
After being held to just six points in the first half, the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Angolan took advantage of his size and quickness against the smaller, skinnier Highlanders.
The result: Fernando led the Terps on a 34-9 run early in the second half, turning a 39-36 deficit into a 22-point lead and eventually a 78-64 victory at Xfinity Center in Maryland’s last nonconference game of the season.
Fernando finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds, his second straight double double and sixth of the season. Sophomore guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) added 14 points and freshman guard Eric Ayala scored 13 for Maryland (10-3).
Junior guard Travis Fields Jr. led Radford (7-6) with 22 points.
Asked whether he was concerned with a second straight slow start — the Terps fell behind by 11 early in a 78-74 loss to Seton Hall on Dec. 22 — Maryland coach Mark Turgeon credited Radford for his team’s 19-10 deficit.
“You’re concerned, obviously, but how about the shots they made? Are you serious?” Turgeon said of the Highlanders, who scored on their first eight possessions and hit eight of their first nine shots. “The kid made the 25-footer [right before the 30-second clock was about to expire]. A kid was 4-for-28, he made it 5-for-29. They made some incredible shots. … Concerned, but I’m more concerned with how we came back both halves.”
Morsell said a few of the upperclassmen told some of their younger teammates they had to play both ends of the floor. It proved to be a critical juncture in the game, as the Terps climbed back to take a 34-32 lead at halftime.
“I definitely think it was our defense,” Morsell said. “They scored their first eight possessions. We kind of locked in. The older guys kind of got the team together and told the guys we’ve got to change our mentality. We’re a team that has to be a defensive-minded team in order to be successful.”
Turgeon said he hopes to get that rectified by the time the Terps return to Big Ten play Wednesday against Nebraska.
“We’re getting there, but … we can’t do that against really good teams. We know that,” Turgeon said. “So hopefully we’ll play better on Wednesday.”
Fernando said it was “extremely important” to have that kind of second half going back into league play. Along with the defense, Maryland shot 14-for-25 overall, and 4-for-9 on 3-pointers after shooting 11-for-28 and 3-for-11 in the first half.
“I think it helped us being confident and knowing we can do anything we put our minds to,” Fernando said. “Being able to come back and focus on defense and getting a lot of stops, we can do great as long as we focus on the things Coach asks us to do.”
Lindo performs with Smith out
Freshman forward Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph) missed his first college game for what a team spokesman said was an “illness.” While redshirt sophomore forward Joshua Tomaic started in Smith’s place, 6-8 freshman Ricky Lindo Jr. came up big.
Lindo, who has shown an ability to rebound and block shots with his 7-1 wingspan, did both against Radford, finishing with a season-high 10 rebounds, eight points and two blocks in 22 minutes.
“Ricky was terrific. He tried to get every rebound,” Turgeon said. “His body was live and active. He’s getting more confident offensively, which helps us. It was good to see.”
Asked if Smith’s absence helped him understand his role better, Lindo said, “It definitely heightened my focus. [Smith] is a vital part of our offense and defense, too. Just making sure, not fill his shoes but do my part to help the team win and I think I executed that tonight.”
Morsell powers in the post
Another effect of Smith’s absence Saturday was that Morsell spent much of his nearly 28 minutes playing at power forward.
The 6-5, 200-pound Morsell was able to use his size and strength to post up for a couple of turnarounds early in the game and was able to get to the basket for layups in the second half.
His 13-point performance was his best since five straight games in double figures early in the season. He had only one double-digit scoring outing in his previous five games, finishing with 12 points in a Dec. 6 loss at Purdue.
“If Coach Turgeon feels like I have an advantage [inside] or I feel like I have an advantage, I try to use my size,” Morsell said. “Just whatever Coach Turgeon feels is the best to help our team have success.”
Improved free throws
It appears the Terps worked on their free-throw shooting after going just 12-for-20 from the line in the loss to Seton Hall, when they made just eight of their first 16. Against Radford, Maryland hit its first eight from the line and wound up 21-for-25.