Maryland recovered from its slow start to lead by four at intermission. The game stayed close throughout the second half with neither team leading by more than six points, but the Terps made just 12 of 20 at the line, and their struggles at the stripe proved costly.
“Let’s be real,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “They made free throws. We didn’t. And they made open shots. We didn’t. That’s really what it comes down to.”
The teams finished the night with nearly identical stats from the field. Maryland made 27 of 58 field goal attempts. Seton Hall hit 26 of 57. Both teams made eight three-pointers. The difference came at the foul line.
Anthony Cowan Jr. hit a three-pointer with 34 seconds to go, bringing his team within one. The Terps fouled Seton Hall’s Myles Cale (23 points), but the sophomore guard made both free throws. Following a Maryland miss, Seton Hall junior guard Myles Powell made two free throws to push the margin back to five. Eric Ayala’s three-pointer with two seconds left trimmed the deficit back to two, but Cale again made both free throws to seal the win. The Pirates (9-3) made 18 of 21 free throws.
Powell had a game-high 27 points, including three three-pointers. Both Powell and Cale were perfect at the line, each going 8 for 8.
“They came out and played well tonight,” Ayala said of Seton Hall’s guards. “Twenty-seven and 23 [points] — that’s big time.”
Bruno Fernando kept Maryland in the game with 19 points and 10 rebounds, his fifth double-double of the season. Late in the first half, the 6-foot-10 sophomore scored eight points within a three-minute span, giving Maryland its first lead with 3:02 remaining.
“He was a beast,” Turgeon said of Fernando. “... Bruno gave us everything he had. He was terrific. He gave us great energy in the first half when we were struggling.”
Cowan finished the night with 15 points. Jalen Smith added 14 and Ayala 13. Those three players plus Fernando all played at least 34 minutes for the Terps.
During the sluggish start, the Terps (9-3) missed five of their first six shots, forcing Turgeon to call a timeout. Down 11 with 13:46 remaining in the first half, Turgeon subbed Ricky Lindo Jr., Serrel Smith Jr. and Darryl Morsell into the game. Lindo scored, then Morsell did, too, before Fernando finished off the quick 6-0 run as Maryland started to cut the Pirates’ lead.
“We came out a little rusty, but that’s not an excuse for the game,” Ayala said. “We’re high-level basketball players and we’ve got to come out and play regardless of the situation.”
Later in the first half, Maryland hit five straight shots, but the team missed seven three-pointers before Ayala finally found the range from beyond the arc to give Maryland a 32-30 lead late in the first half.
Maryland has now faced three of the nation’s top 15 scorers — Hofstra’s Justin Wright-Foreman, Purdue’s Carsen Edwards and Powell on Saturday. Powell entered the game against Maryland averaging 22.7 points per game and exceeded that mark against the Terps.
Morsell, a sophomore guard, has been dealing with an ankle injury and had seven points in 22 minutes off the bench. Freshman Aaron Wiggins started in his place.
Maryland will visit Seton Hall next year, and Turgeon said the coaches decided on the matchup because both expected to have young teams this season. Powell was the only member of Seton Hall’s starting lineup who was a regular starter last season. Meanwhile, the Terps have five freshmen in their top eight and started three freshmen on Saturday.
“We’ve done some pretty good things up until today,” Turgeon said. “Today would have been an amazing win for our young team. It would have been. We came up short. We just didn’t make the plays. ... But we’ll learn from it, we’ll get better. But it doesn’t get any easier for us moving forward.”
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