Before Maryland’s season began, Coach Kevin Willard predicted that budding big man Julian Reese would shine as a sophomore. Frontcourt players can transform once they have spent a year in a college program, and as Reese inherited an expanded role, Willard saw the growth in Reese during practices and expected it to translate to games.
His progress, evident already this season, was never more apparent than during a dominant first-half outing Friday against Coppin State before 10,902 at Xfinity Center. Reese, a 6-foot-9 forward, capitalized on a size advantage and was unrelenting in leading the No. 23 Terrapins to a 95-79 victory over the Eagles, piling up a career-high 24 points and 10 rebounds.
The chippy contest featured six technical fouls, which were split evenly between the teams, and a pair of Maryland assistants were ejected. But the Terps (6-0) surged ahead in the second half to dampen the homecoming of Coppin State Coach Juan Dixon, an all-American on Maryland’s 2002 national title team and the program’s all-time leading scorer. Dixon said afterward that it “felt great” to return to College Park, but “it wasn’t about me today.”
Maryland had three players score at least 20 points — Reese, Hakim Hart (22) and Jahmir Young (21) — the first time the program has done so since 2002 in the final game at Cole Field House. Dixon was one of the players who hit the mark that night.
Reese shot 10 for 12 from the field, improving his season shooting clip to 80.4 percent, among the best marks in Division I. His power in the paint helped compensate for Maryland’s poor shooting (4 for 21) from three-point range.
Maryland’s 18 offensive rebounds, including seven from Reese, and its ability to draw fouls (27 total, seven by Reese) wore down the Eagles (3-5), and the Terps held a double-digit lead throughout the final 12 minutes.
“His size is a problem,” Dixon said of Reese. “The kid got better. He got stronger. He got bigger.”
Reese, who came off the bench as a freshman, was responsible for the surge that helped Maryland take control. With the Terps trailing by three points midway through the first half, Reese scored 18 of the team’s next 22 points over a stretch of about seven minutes.
When Reese checked out of the game late in the first half, the crowd roared with approval. His 22 points and eight rebounds before the break would have been impressive over 40 minutes. After the break, Reese’s production quieted as he ran into foul trouble and played only eight minutes, scoring just two more points before fouling out.
After picking up a pair of notable wins against Miami and Saint Louis last weekend, the Terps returned to the court as a ranked squad Friday and continued their strong run of form — albeit against a Coppin State team that entered ranked 298th of 363 Division I teams in Ken Pomeroy’s analytics-based ratings.
“I feel like a lot of teams would have played down to that type of team coming off those wins,” Hart said.
Dixon’s squad, in the midst of a stretch of nine straight road games, was powered by 28 points from Sam Sessoms, a transfer from Penn State.
Here’s what else to know about Maryland’s victory:
Flurry of technicals
As Coppin State threatened Maryland’s lead early in the second half, Reese and the Eagles’ Isaiah Gross got tangled going for a loose ball. A skirmish ensued, and Maryland assistants Tony Skinn and Grant Billmeier left the bench and headed toward the swarm of players, which led to their ejections with 14:28 to go.
“I'm not going to tell my assistants not to go on the floor to stop a fight or stop something because they might get kicked out of the game,” Willard said, adding that he wasn’t aware of that rule. “That's the stupidest rule.”
After a lengthy video review, Reese and Gross also picked up offsetting technical fouls. Soon after, Reese was called for his fourth foul, sending him to the bench for the next 10 minutes.
At the time of the scuffle, the Eagles trailed by just six, but Maryland responded with a 4-0 burst, and Coppin State never drew closer.
Three additional technical fouls — on Hart as he directed his celebration of a three-pointer toward the visiting bench and one apiece for Coppin State’s Sessoms and Alex Rojas — were issued.
“They were trying to get in our heads from the start,” Hart said.
Patrick Emilien, a 6-foot-7 reserve forward who was averaging 18 minutes entering Friday, was sidelined because of a sprained ankle. His absence led to freshman wing Noah Batchelor becoming the first player called off the bench against the Eagles, logging nine minutes.
Only two other bench players — Jahari Long (five points in 15 minutes) and Ian Martinez (seven points in 16 minutes) — delivered significant contributions.