“I’ve been waiting for that,” Turgeon said.
The Terps had yet to play an opponent of this stature. Maryland’s defense locked in on Howard from the start, forcing him into tough shots on the attempts he had. It took the preseason all-American seven minutes to score, and he ended up shooting 1 for 12 from the field, including 0 for 6 from three-point range.
Junior Darryl Morsell, the player primarily tasked with guarding Howard, had a standout day on the other end of the floor, too. He notched 17 points, just one shy of his career high, along with 10 rebounds, three assists and no turnovers, all complementing his remarkable defensive performance that stopped one of the best scorers in college basketball.
When the teams shook hands after the game, Maryland’s contingent of fans chanted, “Darryl! Darryl!” before the Baltimore native’s former high school teammate Jalen Smith lifted Morsell off the ground and spun him around with his feet in the air.
“I knew what [Howard] was capable of coming into the game with his other two outings in this tournament,” Morsell said. “But I tried to make it tough for him, contest every shot, try to use my size, use my length, just try to get physical with him. But it was a complete team effort.”
Though Turgeon said Morsell set the tone, help came in the form of Maryland’s game plan that involved frequently switching screens. Players such as Aaron Wiggins, Anthony Cowan Jr. and Donta Scott also contributed to Howard’s quiet night.
Cowan led the Terps offensively with 22 points. The senior point guard scored at least 20 in all three games of the tournament, and he earned the event’s MVP honors before the team lifted the tournament trophy.
“He’s making all the right decisions offensively and defensively, so the game’s just coming to him,” Turgeon said. “We always say the ball gravitates back to good scorers.”
Wiggins tied his career high with 15 points, and fellow sophomores Eric Ayala (nine points) and Smith (eight points) also were key contributors to the Terps’ balanced offense. Turgeon said he has been pleased with his group’s offensive performance since late in the first half of its previous game Friday against Harvard.
Marquette (5-2) worked to trim Maryland’s lead, which grew to 25 points after an Ayala layup early in the second half, but never managed to pull closer than 12. With just over four minutes to go, the Golden Eagles trailed by a dozen before Wiggins hit a three-pointer to quell their surge.
Earlier in the second half, Marquette tested the Terps with a 13-2 run during a stretch in which Maryland missed 8 of 9 shots. Marquette had begun relying on a zone defense, and the Terps’ lead shrank. But then Cowan hit a long three and assisted on Scott’s fast-break layup, adding some needed cushion.
“They’re the fastest team we’ve played in transition," Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “They’re the best offensive rebounding team we’ve played. Then, obviously, they were fully committed to taking Markus out of the game. None of those things were a surprise. We just didn’t handle it.”
Marquette only had three players who entered Sunday averaging more than six points per game, while the Terps have a balanced offense that includes numerous players who can reach double figures depending on the night. With Howard well defended Sunday, Golden Eagles sophomore Brendan Bailey moved into the forefront, scoring a career-high 27 points, and redshirt senior Sacar Anim notched 21. No other Marquette player finished with more than Howard’s six.
Maryland started the game with energy and a commitment to defense. Rather than falling into a familiar early hole, the Terps kept the game close in the opening minutes, then busted out with a 12-0 run that began with the score tied at 11 at the 13-minute mark. Freshmen, who offered quality minutes throughout the game, contributed the first seven points of that run, and the Terps continued to play at a high level. They allowed Marquette only four more first-half baskets while continuing to make shots of their own.
With the first half coming to a close, Turgeon’s squad had a chance to get set and orchestrate a final offensive play. Cowan nailed a long three-pointer, capping a 7-0 run that sent Maryland to halftime with a 42-21 lead. It was the largest halftime lead of the season for the Terrapins, who galloped into the tunnel exuding an energy that never wavered.
Throughout its first two games in Orlando, Maryland’s undefeated start to the season seemed in danger at times. But against the Terps’ greatest challenge and one of the best players in the country, a win was never in doubt.
“We’re getting close to the team that I thought we would be,” Turgeon said. “Sometimes it takes a tournament like that for us to get there.”