Terps Notebook: Eric Ayala, Fatts Russell Star In Victory While Team’s 3-Point Woes Continue

Maryland graduate guard Fatts Russell sprinted down the court after Vermont committed a turnover with less than four minutes to go in the first half. Russell jumped up toward the basket, and the ball soon slipped through the net for a one-point lead.

Fans went wild, jumping from their seats and cheering loudly for the Terrapins. Maryland players and coaches sprung from their seats on the bench and clapped loudly for the Philadelphia native. Russell’s basket appeared to provide his team with some much-needed energy toward the end of the half.

“Our coaches kept yelling at me to keep shooting the ball,” Russell said. “When you have coaches like that … that just gives you confidence as a player. I just love being here, I love our coaching staff. It’s tremendous. All my teammates have tremendous confidence in me.”

After the Russell basket, points then came from senior guard Eric Ayala (four) and junior guard Hakim Hart (one).

But Vermont did not hold back, as the Catamounts went on a 6-0 run to end the half with a 36-32 lead against Maryland. But the Terps bounced back in the second half, securing a 68-57 victory against Vermont at Xfinity Center Nov. 13.

Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon applauded his team’s effort.

“That was a fantastic win for our team,” Turgeon said. “I’ve got nothing but respect for Vermont and their players and [head coach John Becker]. Their coach is one of the best coaches in the country. Our guys did a great job of locking in with the game plan.”

The Terps (3-0) played a sloppy first half and finished the half with eight team fouls. Maryland shot 11-for-34 from the field, 2-for-11 deep and 8-for-11 on free throws during the half. The Terps struggled with Vermont graduate guard Ben Shungu, who tallied 20 points in the first half.

“[Shungu] got going in the first half,” Ayala said. “I come in at halftime telling the guys, ‘You know, we stop him, we win the game.’ He had most of their points in the first half.”

Maryland appeared more assertive at the start of the second half, and Turgeon made changes that helped his team contain Vermont’s offense.

Graduate guard Xavier Green, sophomore guard Ian Martinez, freshman center Julian Reese and graduate forward Simon Wright saw more playing time in the second half as Maryland overcame a halftime deficit. The group combined for 13 points and 14 rebounds for the game.

Green explained that he strived to stay engaged throughout the game, particularly on the defensive end.

“I was always a defensive guy. That was my thing coming here,” Green said. “So that’s my thing. I’m going to go out there and give you all the best defense even when my offense is not going.”

Maryland finished the game with 45 rebounds (23 in the second half). Junior center Qudus Wahab and junior forward Donta Scott finished the game with eight rebounds each. The Terrapins out-rebounded the Catamounts, 45-33. The team played more aggressively in the second half but found ways to avoid foul trouble and contain Shungu.

Shungu posted just seven points in the second half.

“I’ve been doing this a long time. That last 10 minutes was as good as one of my teams have ever played defensively, and I’ve had a lot of really good defensive teams. That was something else,” Turgeon said.

The Terps’ offense was led by Ayala and Russell, both of whom tallied 22 points. Ayala went 7-for-18 on field-goal attempts and 6-for-6 on free throws. The Wilmington, Del., native has scored in double figures in each game this season. Russell went 7-for-16 from the field and 6-for-9 from the free-throw line.

Ayala and Russell helped Maryland extend its lead in the second half as well. With less than 11 minutes remaining in the contest, the Terps claimed their largest lead of the game at that point after an Ayala 3-pointer that made it 51-43.

“Eric’s a tremendous scorer. I’m just trying to feed him, make his job easier,” Russell said.

Despite the first-half struggles, the Terps remain confident that the game against Vermont will help prepare them for the rest of the season, especially conference play.

“It is good for us to get challenges early because we [are] such a new team. We [are] kind of facing adversity early, so when we get to Big Ten play, [it will] be easier,” Ayala said. “Just excited to … get our rhythm early and find our groove as a team. I just want to play like that.”

Maryland Continues To Struggle From The Outside

Deep shots remain a concern for the Terrapins. The team went 2-for-11 on 3-pointers in the first half, with the two makes coming from Ayala and Wright. The Terrapins got a little better in the second half, with 3-pointers coming from Russell (two), Ayala and Martinez.

After shooting 3-for-20 from behind the arc against George Washington Nov. 11, the Terrapins were looking to improve in that area against Vermont. But Maryland went 6-for-27 on 3-pointers compared to Vermont’s 7-for-22.

However, Turgeon and his players do not seem concerned with the missing shots.

“If I had an answer for the shooting, I’d fix it,” Turgeon said. “But they’re good shots. If we’re shooting terrible shots over hands, then I’m worried.”

James Graham III Absent

Freshman forward James Graham III missed the past two games because he violated team rules. The Milwaukee native played five minutes and scored two points against Quinnipiac Nov. 9.

Turgeon said he will meet with Graham on Monday, Nov. 15.

“We’ll see where it goes from there,” Turgeon said.

George Mason Next

The Terps will take on George Mason University Nov. 17 in the fourth game of the season and the five-game homestand.

The two teams last faced each other on Nov. 22, 2019, and the matchup resulted in an 86-63 victory for the Terps. Anthony Cowan, now playing in Greece, led the team with 16 points. Current Oklahoma City Thunder guard Aaron Wiggins followed closely behind with 15 points.

Ayala also had a solid game, as he played 25 minutes and tallied eight points. Ayala, then a freshman, went 4-for-5 on free throws and 2-for-7 on field-goal attempts.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Emma Shuster

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