By Jack Rothenberg
The Terps didn’t make it easy on themselves allowing the underdog Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers an 18-6 run midway through the second half that turned a 10 point Maryland lead into a two point Terps deficit. But late in the second half they surged ahead on the strength of a 21-0 run and finished with a 79-61 win. Maryland’s defense was critical, forcing the Mountaineers to take tough shots down the stretch, which allowed better offensive flow as they pulled ahead.
Four starters scored in double figures Sunday afternoon, including junior forward Jarius Hamilton who was back in the starting lineup for the second time this season after coming off the bench against Navy.
Early in the game, Mount St. Mary’s guard Jalen Gibbs was on fire. Gibbs, who led the Mount with 19 points, knocked down four threes in the first eight minutes, providing the Mountaineers with an early nine point advantage. While the Terps fought back with a 10-2 run and had a 41-32 lead going into halftime, they let Mount St. Mary’s hang around allowing the Mountaineers to take a 58-56 lead with just under nine minutes left in the game. Two Donta Scott free throws knotted the score at 58, and a brace of three pointers by Jarius Hamilton (13 points) and Eric Ayala (15 points) sandwiched a Scott dunk that pushed Maryland ahead by eight.
“It was definitely good for us to experience something like that, especially early on in the season. We haven’t had any scrimmages and credit Mount St. Mary’s today…they played really well and forced us to play to the best of our abilities,” junior guard Eric Ayala said.
Sophomore center Chol Mariol earned the first start of his career, but only contributed two points in six minutes. Speaking of his sophomore center head coach Mark Turgeon said, “He was always just a step behind. We’ll get him there, but we just [have] to keep working. He’ll come to work tomorrow, and we’ll try to make him better. [Marial] will be better against bigger, [and] more conventional teams.”
Maryland’s bench played a critical role outscoring the Mountaineers’ 27-2. Sophomore forward Donta Scott accounted for 17 of those points on 7-10 shooting. Freshman guard Aquan Smart and sophomore guard Hakim Hart also came in and gave the team solid minutes. “I thought Hakim Hart and Aquan Smart had their best games since they’ve been here. We’re deep. We’re a deep basketball team and that helps,” Turgeon said.
The Terps now turn their attention to the Towson Tigers, who replaced the Monmouth Hawks in the game scheduled for Tuesday, December 1. Maryland has three remaining non-conference games before they host Rutgers in their Big Ten opener. They will look to fine tune things before then.
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