No. 15 Maryland earned the victory with an improved second half and a performance Coach Mark Turgeon described as “the best we played in a while.” When Indiana trimmed Maryland’s lead to three with 14:17 to go, the Terps responded with a quick 8-0 run and then continued the surge by allowing only one basket in eight minutes.
Once Indiana had climbed closer, Turgeon told his players “we’ve got to lock in defensively and we can’t let up,” sophomore Aaron Wiggins said. “I think everybody just received the message. We went out there, and we took care of business. We didn’t want it to be a tight game.”
All afternoon, Maryland’s defense slowed the Hoosiers, who made only one of 15 three-pointers before the final four minutes of play. The Terps’ lead climbed to 29 before Turgeon started to clear his bench.
The Terrapins’ offense revealed itself in bursts, mostly concentrated in the second half, with sophomore forward Jalen Smith leading the way with 19 points and eight rebounds. As a freshman, Smith flashed his potential but also had some off nights. With newfound consistency this season, Smith has scored at least 10 points in all but two games.
After early struggles — the Terps (12-2, 2-1 Big Ten) opened the game missing 12 of their first 15 shots — they showcased a full turnaround by shooting 48.4 percent in the second half.
In what has become a frequent display this season, Maryland’s offense finished with a handful of contributors, four of whom reached double figures in scoring. Senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr., who became the 15th player in program history with at least 1,600 points, had 13, as did sophomore Aaron Wiggins. The two, however, combined to make just 2 of 11 three-point attempts.
After Maryland split its pair of December conference matchups, it started its January slate showing some rust but ultimately mustering a promising second half against Indiana (11-3, 1-2). The Terps forced 14 turnovers while committing only seven, an improvement from what had reemerged as a problem area during some of the December missteps. Maryland scored 25 points off Indiana’s turnovers.
“I think our best offense is transition,” junior guard Darryl Morsell said. “We’ve got a lot of good guards who make great decisions in transition. We’ve got athletes who can run, who can finish in transition. We’re going to continue to try to help our offense by allowing our defense to create offense for us.”
With the recent departure of twin freshman forwards Makhi and Makhel Mitchell, the Terps’ frontcourt has lacked depth to a worrisome degree. Donta Scott, a 6-foot-7 freshman from Philadelphia, started his third consecutive game alongside Smith. Maryland’s starting lineup has been in flux all season, even before the twins’ decision to transfer, but Turgeon has now called upon this group — those two players in the frontcourt, then Cowan, Wiggins and Morsell — for three games in a row.
Both teams shot poorly in the first half; Maryland headed to the locker room having shot just 29 percent from the field, while Indiana connected at a 26.7 percent clip. Midway through the first half, the Terps began their push ahead of the visitors after Smith’s back-to-back three-pointers became “the spark that we needed,” Morsell said. The second of those baskets ignited a 11-0 run that pushed Maryland ahead for good. Through most of that stretch, Turgeon used a four-guard lineup, and he stuck with a similar look for the rest of the first half.
Chol Marial, who made his anticipated collegiate debut last week against Bryant, again received a warm welcome from the crowd upon his entrance to the game. But the 7-foot-2 freshman from South Sudan had a less productive outing than his last. Marial played eight minutes against Indiana, recording three rebounds, two points and four fouls.
Still, “he’s having so much fun,” Turgeon said. “The only time he got mad was when I took him out at the two-minute mark [after his fourth foul]. I had to stop him: ‘Hey, let’s get a reality check here, buddy. You’re playing in a Big Ten game.’ … Everybody loves him. Fans love him. Coaches love him. His teammates love him. So we just want the best for him.”
Marial will certainly provide meaningful help as the season progresses, but Turgeon relied more on Scott or a small lineup with four guards Saturday.
Scott has played considerable minutes as a freshman and again performed well. His dunk in transition, off an assist from Cowan, sent the crowd into a roar and extended Maryland’s second-half lead to 15 with just under nine minutes to go, adding to his team’s dominant second-half display.
“I think today the guys had fun,” Turgeon said. “You saw them smiling. You saw guys playing more relaxed as the game went on. So a lot of positives moving forward. It’s a long season, but it’s a step in the right direction.”