The Maryland men’s basketball team defeated Rutgers, 68-60, on Jan. 25 at Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway, N.J. Maryland’s second consecutive victory against a Big Ten opponent brought the Terps to 11-9 overall and 3-6 in the league.

“I thought this was one of those games where we played tip to horn in a very unique and difficult place to play,” interim head coach Danny Manning said. “I think our team is continuing to grow, continuing to develop. We’ve gotten better since the last time that we played this talented Rutgers team. Just proud of the group’s belief in each other when we step out there on the court.”

Here are 10 observations from the Terps’ road win against the Scarlet Knights …

1. Qudus Wahab set the tone early on.

Rutgers started the game the same way it ended the last time the two teams faced off Jan. 15 in College Park — full of energy. After winning the jump ball, Rutgers sophomore Cliff Omoruyi finished an alley-oop only 10 seconds into the game.

Terps junior center Qudus Wahab responded with a jumper in the paint. The Georgetown transfer scored Maryland’s six points of the game. All of the points came in the paint, something that interim head coach Danny Manning has valued highly since taking over the team. Wahab finished the night with 10 points.

“This game, he established himself in great post position, got to a spot, elevated up and made some tough shots and got us off to a terrific start,” Manning said.

Maryland quickly capitalized on Wahab’s early play and went on a 9-0 run to create a 15-7 lead. Baskets during the run came from senior guard Eric Ayala, junior guard Hakim Hart, junior forward Donta Scott and freshman center Julian Reese.

2. Maryland dominated the first half.

Sparked by strong play early on from Wahab, Maryland soon led Rutgers by a large margin. With less than seven minutes remaining in the first half, Maryland led by 15 points following a 21-3 run.

Rutgers’ defense seemed to have no answer for the Terps’ offense as the half progressed, and the Terps took advantage of that. Graduate guard Fatts Russell made two consecutive 3-pointers in transition that gave the Terps their largest game lead (35-15). But that big lead would not last for long.

Rutgers began to generate offense in the final few minutes of the half, sparked by a 3-pointer by senior guard Geo Baker. Senior Ron Harper Jr. responded with a dunk. Rutgers’ last basket of the half was a 3-pointer from senior Caleb McConnell with three seconds remaining.

But the comeback was still not enough.

The Terps held a 12-point lead (38-26) at the end of the first half. Maryland scored 16 paint points and shot 54 percent from the field in the half.

“We got into the paint. We have dribble penetration, and we made really good decisions once we got there, making extra passes, and we made some timely shots,” Manning said.

3. Danny Manning switched up the lineup again.

Manning reverted to the Terps’ original starting five of Russell, Ayala, Hart, Scott and Wahab against Rutgers. The group had been Maryland’s starting lineup for the opening 16 games.

However, Manning made some changes during the previous three games. Graduate guard Xavier Green, sophomore guard Ian Martinez, freshman center Julian Reese and graduate guard Simon Wright had all seen starts of late.

4. Ron Harper Jr. had a quiet first half …

After completely dominating in the second half the last time the two teams met, Harper did not carry over that performance to the first half this time around.

He finished the first half with only four points and two rebounds. His first layup occurred within the first two minutes of the game. However, his dunk happened with nearly one minute left in the half.

5. … but he had a stronger second half.

Harper had a stronger second half, scoring 12 of his 16 points in the second half.

Despite the improvement, Harper could not match his 31-point performance Jan. 15. Still, he finished the night with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Manning credited Hakim Hart for solid defense against the star who gave Maryland major trouble only 10 days prior.

“He’s the glue that holds it together,” Manning said of Hart’s defensive skills. “… He makes the right play. He makes big shots. He guards. Just great understanding and feel for the game, doesn’t get rattled and came out and did a really good job in standing in front of Harper.”

6. Maryland had some second-half struggles late.

The Terps did not come out with the same intensity as in the first half. Rutgers scored the first basket of the second half, a turnaround jumper by Cliff Omoruyi that Ron Harper Jr. assisted.

The Terps responded with two 3-pointers — one from Fatts Russell and another from Eric Ayala — for a 44-31 lead. But Donta Scott committed a personal foul that sent Rutgers sophomore Aundre Hyatt to the free-throw line. He converted both shots, which brought his team’s deficit to 44-33.

Though Maryland led by double digits for most of the second half, the Terps did allow Rutgers to get within seven late.

“We’ve got to clean up a little bit of our late-game situations,” Manning said. “… We just have to do a little bit of a better job being cleaner with our switches and still contesting shots and finishing each possession with a rebound.”

7. Eric Ayala became the fifth player in program history to make 200 threes.

Ayala achieved another milestone Jan. 25, as he became the fifth player in program history to drain 200 shots from behind the arc. Ayala joins four other Maryland stars who have accomplished the feat: Juan Dixon (239), Greivis Vasquez (230), Anthony Cowan Jr. (216) and Mike Jones (203).

Ayala was 5-for-9 from deep against Rutgers. The Wilmington Del., native’s first three of the night came nearly halfway through the first half, and it gave Maryland a nine-point lead (18-9) against the Scarlet Knights. His final deep shot of the night came with less than seven minutes remaining in the game.

Ayala finished with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field. He also had a team-high eight rebounds.

“I like Rutgers. I like their gym,” Ayala said.

8. Fatts Russell had a strong game.

Russell made five 3-pointers, which marked a season-best output. His dominant performance helped Maryland extend its lead and prevent Rutgers from making a significant comeback in the second half.

“I hit the first one, and it felt good,” Russell said. “Ever since, I just kept going.”

Russell finished the night with a team-high 23 points. He went 7-for-16 from the field, 5-for-8 from behind the arc and 4-for-5 at the free-throw line.

Manning applauded Russell’s performance.

“Fatts is a confident young man, and we’re confident in him,” Manning said. “He got it going early and made some big-time shots for us late in the shot clock.”

9. Ian Martinez saw no playing time again.

For the second consecutive game, Martinez did not play. Martinez has struggled offensively recently. He has not scored more than two points in a game since Nov. 25 against Richmond.

10. Donta Scott had a quiet night offensively.

After posting a career-high 25 points against Illinois Jan. 21, Scott had a quiet performance against Rutgers, finishing the night with three points and six rebounds. All three of his points came from free throws. Scott did not make any shots from the field.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Emma Shuster

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