The common thread, though, has been the outcome: all double-digit wins, with Tuesday’s 74-55 victory over visiting Fairfield the most recent addition to the list. The sixth-ranked Terps (4-0) produced another balanced effort, with four players scoring at least 12 points to help counter the Stags’ dozen three-pointers.
Although Maryland’s freshmen played significant time in this matchup, the Terps’ experienced core again shined. Sophomore Jalen Smith, who is beginning to live up to lofty preseason expectations, had 17 points with eight rebounds, another solid outing in his consistent start to the season. Smith — and his NBA ability — anchors this team, but his high-scoring counterparts provide a needed boost around him.
Ricky Lindo Jr., another sophomore who was part of Maryland’s rotation last year, played his best game of the season and perhaps the best of his college career. He scored a career-high 13 points while settling into his role and staying dialed-in on defense as Turgeon expects.
Lindo has had an up-and-down start to the season, playing fewer than 10 minutes in the previous two games. Against Rhode Island on Nov. 9, Turgeon took Lindo out of the game after the 19-year-old had subpar body language. Lindo, who made all six of his shots Tuesday, showed vast improvement, both in his performance and the way he carried himself.
Turgeon “recruited me to play defense and rebound,” Lindo said after the win. “That’s really what I’m good at. He just said, ‘Play your role, and offense will come.’ ”
Lindo’s outing against Fairfield became the prime example for the still-young player. He smiled through postgame interviews and said he hopes he’ll be even better from here.
Anthony Cowan Jr. (12 points) and Eric Ayala (13 points) both hit three shots from deep, and sophomore standout Aaron Wiggins (six points) made an emphatic entrance with an early steal-and-score, a showcase of newfound physicality that ended with a one-handed dunk that drew a foul. Wiggins turned that into a three-point play, but through much of the game, Maryland’s most obvious area of concern came from the foul line, where the Terps made just 14 of 25 free throws.
Fairfield, a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference team that came in ranked 282nd of 353 teams in Ken Pomeroy’s analytics-based rankings, had made just 17 of 63 three-point attempts (27 percent) in its first four games. But the Stags (1-4) far eclipsed that mark at Xfinity Center, hitting 12 of 25 (48 percent) and refusing to let the Terps run away as early as expected. Maryland guarded well, but the Stags hit difficult shots, including some late in the shot clock, highlighted by Landon Taliaferro’s five buckets on nine attempts from three-point range.
“We watched film on him,” Ayala said. “I could tell he was a shooter. It was different seeing it in person. A lot of guys just fed off of him. He was making a lot of shots. It was impressive, even playing against them.”
Turgeon continued to tinker with his starting five, this time opting to give freshman Donta Scott his first start. Lindo replaced Scott three minutes into the game, then started the second half in his place. Turgeon has started a handful of different players, particularly if you account for whom he opts to begin the second half. But starting with Friday’s game against George Mason, Turgeon said, “We’ll start playing for keeps now moving forward.”
Three freshmen — Scott, Makhi Mitchell and Hakim Hart — shared the court for nearly three minutes midway through the first half. That group forced a Fairfield turnover — one of 16 on the night — but Mitchell and Hart both missed shots before Turgeon shifted back to a more experienced look. Maryland had only a four-point advantage when they entered, but the decision to throw the newcomers into the game came mainly because Turgeon knew he wanted to let a lot of guys play.
“Always felt like we were going to win the game — just didn’t know by how much we were going to win the game,” Turgeon said. “But our young guys didn’t play as well as they’ve been playing.”
Hart, who has improved lately, was an exception, Turgeon said. The freshman guard had never entered a game before halftime, but he earned the minutes after playing well and scoring seven points late in Maryland’s blowout win Saturday against Oakland. He had one point, three rebounds and two assists in 13 minutes Tuesday.
Fairfield’s Jesus Cruz, a 6-foot-5 guard from Puerto Rico, had averaged 19.5 points entering this matchup, but the Terps held him to a season-low 13 on 5-for-11 shooting.
Fairfield made far more threes than Maryland would have liked, but the Terps never saw the game slip into jeopardy. They cruised to another win, leaning on their stars while integrating some youngsters into the rotation as more challenging tests lie ahead.
“We did some nice things offensively tonight in the half court, but we’re not there yet," Turgeon said. “We’re not making free throws. We’re not making some layups. We’re not making some tip-ins. We’re not making open shots. But it’s coming. I can feel it in practice, and it’s going to come soon in the games.”