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Maryland basketball gets exactly what it needs in lopsided win over D-II Wingate

Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon, shown Dec. 31, got to empty his bench in a win over Division II Wingate. (Nick Wass/AP)

With a win nearly assured from the moment the Maryland men’s basketball team scheduled Friday’s game against Division II Wingate, the Terrapins cruised through the matchup. Maryland’s rotation players stayed fresh while their inexperienced teammates benefited from extended minutes.

The Terps needed a heated early timeout for their stagnant offense to kick into gear, but after that point the matchup scheduled on short notice turned into exactly what the program hoped. Maryland (8-6) dominated the Bulldogs during the second half en route to a 100-58 win.

James Graham III, the 17-year-old midseason enrollee, scored for the first time in his college career, finishing with 10 points and a pair of three-pointers. Graham arrived in College Park just three weeks ago, but against Wingate, the 6-foot-8 wing showcased his ability as a reliable shooter and played 13 minutes, including a stint during the first half.

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“What we’re doing to him is almost impossible — for him to come in after Christmas as a 17-year-old kid,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “I think offensively, we all got a little bit more confident with him. Defensively is where he’s got to go a long way for us to really trust him in these Big Ten games.”

Three other newcomers — Arnaud Revaz, Aidan McCool and Jade Brambhatt — scored for the first time, and all 14 available Maryland players appeared in the game. Only junior guard Eric Ayala (groin injury) watched from the bench.

With this game serving as a chance to keep players in a rhythm in an environment more competitive than practice, Turgeon relied on his usual starters but didn’t have anybody exceed 26 minutes. Junior guard Aaron Wiggins scored 21 points on 6-for-11 shooting. Wiggins added six rebounds and three assists, continuing his run of strong outings that are critical to this team’s success.

Five players scored in double figures for the Terps — Wiggins, Graham, senior forward Galin Smith (13 points), senior guard Darryl Morsell (11) and sophomore guard Hakim Hart (11). Maryland shared the ball well, with Hart notching a career-high six assists and freshman guard Aquan Smart adding another five. The Terps finished with 27 assists on 32 baskets. Thirteen players scored for Maryland, and seven made at least one three-pointer.

Maryland scheduled Wingate (6-4) after Saturday’s game against Nebraska was postponed because of coronavirus cases in the Cornhuskers’ program. Turgeon hoped Friday’s matchup would keep his players fresh during what would have been a long layoff before the Terps travel to face No. 7 Michigan, the conference’s lone unbeaten team, Tuesday.

Wingate competed during the opening minutes, building a lead as large as four points. With the game on a Friday afternoon inside an empty Xfinity Center, the Bulldogs played well early against the best team they probably will face in their college careers.

The Terps, meanwhile, started the game with sluggish offense, forcing Turgeon to call a timeout about eight minutes into the game. Turgeon emphatically implored his team, screaming, “Move the ball!”

“I was trying to play too many damn guys early, and I couldn’t let guys get rhythm,” Turgeon said. “Then we got really selfish, took two really bad shots in a row. … I just want guys to play the right way, play every possession the right way offensively and defensively, and we weren’t doing that.”

The Terps opened the game 5 for 14 from the field, and they trailed by four points at that timeout after Wingate generated a 7-0 burst. But Maryland woke up from its abysmal start and finished the half making 11 of 14 attempts. The Terps’ lead grew to 18 points not long before halftime.

When asked about Turgeon’s heated timeout, Smith said: “It's honestly probably what we needed at that point in time — just that fire in us so we can get the game going and do what we're supposed to do and close it out.”

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Maryland’s defense seized control of the game, and Wingate didn’t make a basket during the first five minutes of the second half. Turgeon played a full-strength starting lineup — apart from Ayala, who hopefully will return from his injury in time for the Michigan game, Turgeon said. During the first half, Turgeon used a somewhat usual rotation, but as the game progressed, Maryland called upon inexperienced players.

Smart played a season-high 21 minutes and scored five points. Fellow freshman Marcus Dockery played 11 minutes and also recorded five points. Both typically play limited minutes during Big Ten play, and any experience they gain is beneficial as the team moves forward. Graham highlighted the freshman class’s performance with eight of his 10 points coming during a two-minute span.

“Guys that haven’t scored in their career are now in the history books forever,” Turgeon said. “You can’t ever draw things up the way you want it to work out, but today I don’t know if it could have gone any better for our team.”