Maryland men’s basketball had an action-packed Friday, Dec. 4, returning to the court for the first time in five days and learning of more schedule drama afterward. The Terps dispatched Saint Peter’s 90-57 at Xfinity Center to improve to 4-0 this season, highlighted by a stunning career performance, then found out yet another scheduled opponent was off the board and quickly began searching for another.
Here’s how it all went down.
The Terps stayed hot and Hakim Hart erupted against the Peacocks.
Maryland never messed around here. The Terps went on a 14-0 run after allowing the game’s first basket. They led by as many as 22 in the first half, never let it get closer than 14 in the second half and closed on a 21-6 run to win by 33.
Hakim Hart was the story. The sophomore poured in an astonishing 33 points in the first start of his career. He went 11-of-13 on field goals, 5-of-7 on long balls and 6-of-7 on free throws. He had 13 in the first half and caught fire with 20 in the second half, including 13 in the final 5:02. Hart’s previous career high was 11 points, achieved two games ago against Navy. He scored 26 points all of last season.
Hart stole the show, but Jairus Hamilton scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half and pulled down eight rebounds in the game. Fellow power forward Donta Scott recorded a double-double with 14 points and 12 boards off the bench. Eric Ayala chipped in 12 points. Ten Terps found the net in all; surprisingly, senior Darryl Morsell wasn’t one of them, going scoreless for just the fourth time in his career.
Maryland leads the nation in effective field goal percentage, per KenPom, and continued its hot shooting in the first half of this contest. The Terps connected on 13 of 20 field goals in the first half, and after inexplicably missing 12 straight shots in the second half, Maryland made 10 of its last 14 to finish at 52 percent (26-of-50) for the ballgame.
This game lasted two hours and 15 minutes, an incredibly slow pace for a blowout, as whistles sounded on seemingly every other trip down the floor. Saint Peter’s was whistled for 33 personal fouls in the game, and Maryland attempted 44 free throws (knocking down just 29 for a 65.9 percent clip). Four Peacocks committed four fouls and a fifth fouled out after a double technical. Maryland’s only foul trouble came from Galin Smith, who had two early.
It’s worth noting that Maryland won with minimal contribution from its veteran guard trio. Morsell went 0-for-4 from the field and committed five turnovers. Wiggins — whom Turgeon explained came off the bench because he hurt his elbow and didn’t practice during the week — missed both of his field goals and was a frustrating 5-of-9 at the foul line. Ayala’s 12 points came on 3-of-9 shooting (0-for-5 from distance). In years past, Maryland didn’t have the depth to make up for this. But Hart, Hamilton and Scott and the rest of the Terps’ depth options were more than enough on this day.
Hart’s outburst is still hard to put in any sort of context. In the first three games, he averaged 6.7 points in 18.3 minutes. That’s a significant uptick from last season, when an 18-year-old Hart wasn’t in the main rotation and averaged 1.6 points across 18 appearances. Turgeon was high on Hart entering this winter, but even he couldn’t realistically see this coming. Hart’s 33 points are the most by a Terrapin since Diamond Stone’s 39 against Penn State on Dec. 30, 2015.
“Late in the year I started to play him more and he just … couldn’t make shots, couldn’t get it going. But we all knew as a staff that he was a good player,” Turgeon said. “[When the] season ended, ‘Oh man, Hakim, if we’re gonna be really good next year, you’re gonna have to make a big jump.’ … We knew he was a good player when we got him, and he’s kind of grown maturity-wise and feeling more comfortable on the court.”
Hart, quiet by nature, was first asked in his virtual press conference to simply describe how the performance felt.
“It felt great.”
But did Hart actually score only 32?
This question stems from a sequence with 13:19 remaining in the game. Maryland was leading 54-39 and Hart had 17 points. Peacocks forward K.C. Ndefo committed a loose-ball foul against Terps big man Galin Smith, then argued the call heavily enough to earn a double technical and an ejection. This meant four free throws — which Turgeon chose Hart to shoot — plus a one-and-one for Smith since Maryland was already in the bonus.
Hart made the first, made the second, missed the third and made the fourth technical free throw. Smith made both ends of the one-and-one. But StatBroadcast had Hart going 4-of-4 and Smith 1-of-1 instead of Hart going 3-of-4 and Smith 2-of-2. These misattributions happen sporadically but are usually corrected either during the game or shortly after. This one, somehow, never was.
There are a couple differences between 32 and 33 in this instance. Hart’s 33 matches Juan Dixon’s career high as a Terp, and one-ups his Roman Catholic High School teammate Seth Lundy, who scored 32 for Penn State Dec. 2 against VCU. It allows Maryland’s Twitter account to nickname him “K33M.” It’s all 3’s, and it feels right.
But let the record show that one of those 33 points might truly, actually, rightfully belong to Galin Smith.
Now the Terps hit the road to play — wait, nevermind.
Maryland was scheduled to play at James Madison at 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5. The Terps planned to travel to Harrisonburg, Virginia, after the Saint Peter’s game (the Maryland women’s team plays Saturday, so the men’s team opted to play on the road). But the Dukes canceled the matchup the evening of Dec. 4, just a couple hours after the Terps finished their game, and paused team activities due to a positive COVID-19 test in the James Madison program.
This is the fourth different cancellation by a Maryland opponent this season, and essentially the third time the same game has been called off. Monmouth was initially slated to visit the Terps Tuesday, Dec. 1, but paused activities last week. Towson agreed to visit College Park on that date but canceled Monday, Nov. 30. Maryland scheduled James Madison later that day … only to see that Dec. 5 matchup canceled as well. Also this week, George Mason called off its scheduled game Dec. 4, and Saint Peter’s was on the schedule in its place hours later.
Turgeon explained Dec. 3 at his pre-Saint Peter’s press conference that the short-term scheduling is mostly handled by directors of basketball operations; Mark Bialkoski, who holds that position at Maryland, has been exceptionally busy these last few days. The Terps have a list of schools to contact about certain games, which allows new matchups to come together quickly.
“Probably five weeks ago when we were meeting every day with the Big Ten, I said we’ve got to have a list of schools that we can call and that we can play, on top of the games we already had scheduled,” Turgeon said Dec. 3. “When Towson got canceled, we had a list, and we talked to probably 15, 20 schools and we got James Madison. … Saint Peter’s was really close to playing the Saturday game here, and so then when we heard from George Mason, Coach Bialkoski already had that done — probably within 30 minutes after George Mason tested positive, we had the Saint Peter’s game.”
And now the wheels are turning once again.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics