Maryland senior guard Eric Ayala stood at the free-throw line nearly five minutes into the game after making a layup seconds before. Silence filled the Xfinity Center as Ayala positioned himself to shoot, and cheers erupted throughout the arena as the senior produced his 1,000th career point. He became the 58th player in Terrapin history to do so.

Ayala’s achievement was part of the No. 21 Maryland men’s basketball team’s 83-69 victory against Quinnipiac Nov. 9, which marked the Terps’ 45th consecutive home-opener win. The victory came before an energetic crowd of 12,832. Maryland last played before a regular-season crowd on March 8, 2020, against Michigan, right before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the remainder of the season.

Fans expect Ayala to have a dominant senior season and step into a leadership position on the team. The 2022 Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award Watch List nominee averaged a team-high 15.1 points per game last year.

“When we signed Eric, I didn’t know if he’d be the player that he is today,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “He’s really turned into a great player for us.”

Ayala was named to the Preseason Top 50 Watch List for the John R. Wooden Award ahead of the season opener, and he immediately proved why. The Wilmington, Del., native came out firing Nov. 9. His first basket, a 3-pointer, came a little more than two minutes into the game. It came one minute after graduate guard Fatts Russell delivered the game’s first basket.

Ayala’s play carried into the second half. He hit two consecutive 3-pointers, extending Maryland’s lead to 71-51 against the Bobcats. Both shots were assisted by junior center Qudus Wahab.

The 6-foot-5, 205-pound Ayala finished the night with 13 points and eight rebounds and led the team with 27 minutes. The guard finished 4-for-12 on field goal attempts, 3-for-7 on 3-point shots and 2-for-4 from the line. He now sits at 1,007 career points.

Junior forward Donta Scott spoke proudly of his teammate after the game.

“Happy for him. I mean, only so many people get to say they scored 1,000,” Scott said. “They can’t take that away from him.”

Turgeon applauded his senior’s opening-night performance and looks forward to seeing him continuing to develop on and off the floor throughout the season.

“He leads in his own way,” Turgeon said. “You sit down individually with players, like, ‘Who do you talk to the most? [They say], I always talk to Eric.’ So Eric has a big, big role in helping us develop.”

Five Terps In Double Figures

Turgeon acknowledged that his team struggled initially to find consistency against Quinnipiac. The Terps held a 16-point lead against the Bobcats after 20 minutes of play but committed 10 turnovers in the half. Still, five Terps finished the night with double-digit points — Ayala, Scott, Russell, Wahab and freshman center Julian Reese.

Russell, a transfer from Rhode Island, immediately made his presence known. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound point guard scored the first basket, sending Terrapin fans over the edge. He led the team with eight points at the end of the first half. Russell finished the night with 12 points, four assists and two rebounds in just a little more than 25 minutes. He went 5-for-9 on field-goal attempts.

The Philadelphia native’s speed presented a challenge for the Bobcats as he easily moved through defenders. Ayala praised his new teammate, calling Russell’s speed a “blur.”

“He gets from one spot to the next,” Ayala said. “In practice, we [will] be racing. I [will] be trying to beat him. If we are going up and back, I get him going down, but when we turn to come back, he [gets] me. His speed is crazy.”

Wahab, a transfer from Georgetown, finished the night with a team-high 17 points. Wahab averaged 12.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks for Georgetown last season and led the Hoyas to the Big East tournament championship in March.

And those skills shined brightly against Quinnipiac.

The Nigeria native ended the night with six rebounds and two assists. He scored the first three baskets of the second half, and the 6-foot-11, 240-pound center said he came out with an aggressive mindset.

“I’m just going to do whatever I can to help the team win, scoring and rebound,” Wahab said.

Reese made his presence felt from the moment he came off the bench. The freshman finished the night with 11 points and seven rebounds. He went 5-for-7 on field-goal attempts.

Both Wahab and Reese provided the Terps with low-post scoring, something the team struggled with last season. The Terps also out-rebounded Quinnipiac, 45-29.

“Our centers were terrific,” Turgeon said. “Q was great, Julian was great. It’s nice to have guys that can score around the rim. They were terrific.”

Scott finished the night with 13 points and five rebounds, and he liked the offensive output from the entire team.

“Just knowing that you have other guys that’ll be able to score, like [Ayala and Wahab] — multiple positions that can score, it might be the post, it might be the wing — makes me better inside because I know that I can pass it to that person and still get a score,” Scott said.

Junior guard Hakim Hart impressed Turgeon as well.

“Hakim was terrific tonight,” Turgeon said. “He makes all the right decisions. He really got better at guarding the basketball.”

Julian Reese Shines

After Reese’s 16-point performance against Fayetteville State Nov. 5, Terrapin fans wondered the type of role that the freshman would have on the team. The question appeared to be answered Nov. 9, as Reese dominated both ends of the court. He played a little more than 19 minutes and finished the night with 11 points and seven rebounds.

Reese converted three of his first four shots of the game, and the freshman’s regular-season debut impressed Turgeon.

“Julian is really good. I don’t know, he’s in traffic and all of a sudden, he’s by the rim. It’s pretty unique what he’s able to do,” Turgeon said. “He’s got great hands, great length.”

Wahab spoke highly of the Baltimore native as well.

“He looks like he’s been out there before,” Wahab said. “[He] gives us more options. When teams might start double-teaming him, it’s going to create space for the shooters.”

George Washington Next

The Terps will take on George Washington University Nov. 11 for the second game of the season and the five-game homestand.

The two teams last faced each other on Dec. 8, 2013, and the matchup resulted in a 77-75 point victory for George Washington.

Like his teammates, Scott is excited to be able to play in front of fans again, explaining how “fans are really key to a lot of programs.”

“It was great to have fans back, have some students there tonight,” Turgeon said. “And just good to get that first game underneath you.”

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Emma Shuster

See all posts by Emma Shuster. Follow Emma Shuster on Twitter at @emmashuster1.