By Jack Rothenberg
The Maryland Terrapins picked up yet another huge quadrant one victory, as they went on the road and took down the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 68-59 for their fourth win in a row. The Terps did so with fantastic defensive play, which has been their calling card all season long and even more so lately. Over this current four game win streak Maryland has allowed an average of 59.8 points per game to opponents. On the other side of the ball, the Terps took care of business behind a complete team effort. Five double-digit scorers for Maryland allowed the team not to have to only rely on junior guards Aaron Wiggins or Eric Ayala.
Maryland started off the game getting their scoring from down low. At the 8:42 mark the game was tied at 16, and the Terps had scored 12 of those in the paint. Maryland finished the half with 16 paint points, but it was yet again their defense that provided the advantage in the first half. Limiting Rutgers to 34 percent shooting and 2-11 from beyond the arc during the period, allowed the Terps to steadily create a cushion of eight points heading into halftime.
Maryland ended the last 8:30 of the half on a 12-4 run with Ayala (14 points) scoring all eight of his first half points during that span. The Terps took a 28-20 lead into the break.
With 6:34 left in the first half, senior guard Darryl Morsell exited the game with a right shoulder injury. Morsell’s injury looked serious at first glance, as he was taken directly to the locker room, but after the under four TV timeout Morsell returned wearing a shoulder brace.
Maryland seemed to be pulling away with the game early in the second half following an Ayala three that pushed the lead up to 14 with just over 14 minutes remaining. The Terps shortly after even extended their lead to 15, but the Scarlet Knights pulled themselves back within striking distance with an 11-2 run that cut the lead to 47-41.
All of the momentum was leaning toward Rutgers but Morsell, the leader of this Maryland squad, scored on back-to-back possessions to re-establish the Terps’ double-digit lead. Down the stretch, the Terps controlled the ball, knocked down free throws and were able to walk out of “The RAC” with a win.
Late in the second half Morsell re-injured his right shoulder and was taken out for the remainder of the game. “(His) shoulder didn’t come all the way out. The term I heard was to the edge. They popped it back in both times, the first time he was really strong and in no pain. The second time he was strong and in no pain, but we weren’t going to play him again. He was begging us to put him back in,” head coach Mark Turgeon said.
Morsell will see a doctor on Monday to diagnose the severity of the injury and determine the next steps.
Two weeks remain in the Big Ten regular season, and Maryland is going to want to finish their last three games strong. Riding a hot win streak and no ranked teams remaining on the schedule, the Terps have a legitimate chance to end the regular season on a seven game winning streak. Maryland now has a seven day lay-off before they play Michigan State on Feb. 28. This could help rejuvenate a team that has played four games in the past eight days. On the other hand, when you’re playing as well as Maryland is at the moment that long of a break could be detrimental to the momentum they’ve built. Only time will tell.
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