Maryland Men’s Basketball’s Opener Vs. Holy Cross: The Good, The Bad, The Intriguing

Maryland men’s basketball was far from perfect in its first action of the 2019-20 season, but the No. 7-ranked Terps had more than enough firepower to cruise to a 95-71 win against Holy Cross in College Park Nov. 5.

The Terps’ depth was on full display, with 11 players getting on the scoreboard and four finishing in double figures. Jalen Smith led the way with a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double after a sluggish start. Darryl Morsell, who came off the bench despite being a regular starter last season, notched 12 points in the first half and 15 in the game. Facilitators Anthony Cowan Jr. and Eric Ayala added 12 each, while Aaron Wiggins, Donta Scott and Serrel Smith Jr. all totaled at least eight.

Holy Cross kept the game close early and led, 22-21, with 11:11 left in the first half. But that’s when Maryland took control, going on a 12-2 run to pull ahead. Mark Turgeon’s Terps slowly added separation the rest of the way en route to victory.

Here’s what went right, what started poorly and what to keep an eye out for in the future.

THE GOOD: Turnover margin

This was one of the big question marks that lingered from last season. In 2018-19, Maryland was 234th nationally in offensive turnover percentage and 352nd (second-to-last) on the defensive end. The Terps’ minus-3.6 turnover margin was 334th in the country.

Opening night, though, was a different story. In the first half, Maryland forced 11 Holy Cross turnovers while committing just two. This led to a 13-2 halftime advantage in points off turnovers. While the Terps had a few more lapses in the second half — committing six and forcing three — they still finished with a 14-8 advantage and led, 15-9, in points off turnovers.

“It means a lot,” Jalen Smith said after the game. “Pretty much the whole offseason, we were focusing on turnovers. I remember doing scrimmages where, if you got three turnovers, your team was out and the next team would come on. And everybody was keeping control of the ball.

“Holy Cross came in here, they pushed the tempo for us and they played hard on defense, so just being able to play against that and minimize our turnovers is a good thing.”

THE BAD: Three-point shooting

Serrel Smith Jr. was the bright spot, swishing two triples on three attempts in the first half. The rest of the Terps, though, didn’t have the same success. Players not named Serrel combined for just three long balls on 24 attempts, bringing the team total to 5-of-27 (18.5 percent).

Aaron Wiggins, who made 41.3 percent of his threes last season, finished 0-for-6 from long range. Ayala went 1-for-6. Cowan and Jalen Smith each went 0-for-3. But even with these struggles, Maryland shot 48.7 percent overall thanks to a dominant performance in the paint and on the offensive glass.

“We didn’t shoot the ball very well. We missed a lot of open ones,” Turgeon said. “Probably the thing I was most disappointed in offensively was our shot selection. We took maybe five or six bad shots — maybe more when I watch the film.”

It’s worth noting that Maryland also came out of the gate shooting poorly from distance last season. The Terps went 2-for-19 in their opener and 5-of-23 in the next game. Those ended up being two of their three worst long-range performances of the season, and they shot 34.9 percent as a team for the year. The 3-point line is a little farther away this season but expect Maryland to average out at a similar percentage this season.


Maryland took 76 shots, its most in a single game since 2014. Eighteen offensive rebounds helped raise that number, but the Terps also had 22 fast-break points and consistently pushed the tempo after takeaways and missed shots.

Turgeon said after the game that Holy Cross head coach Brett Nelson’s offense was the fastest he’d ever coached against, but that an up-tempo game played into his team’s hands, even if the execution wasn’t where he wanted it to be.

“We practice that way every day. If you come watch us practice, we’re getting up and down, we’re playing fast,” Turgeon said. “We know we have to get better in our half-court offense, we know we have to get better in our half-court defense. … We have a lot of time to get better.”

Maryland returns to action Nov. 9 against Rhode Island.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Thomas Kendziora

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