The last time the Maryland and Navy men’s basketball teams met before Friday night was in 1985, a second-round clash in the NCAA tournament with a trio of basketball titans — Len Bias and Lefty Driesell for the Terps, David Robinson for the Midshipmen — stalking the court.
Robinson sat courtside Friday night in crowded Alumni Hall in Annapolis more than three decades and two NBA championships later. The stakes were lower this time around, in the annual Veterans Classic, but the reunion of the two programs was worth the trip — even if Robinson had to endure another Maryland win. The Terps won that matchup decades ago, and they won again, 78-57, on Friday.
“Maryland’s got such a great program, great history, and for us it was really one of our coming-out games way back in the day,” Robinson said. “It’s a great memory for me, playing against Lenny Bias. And I loved Lefty Driesell; I always thought he was an underrated coach. They had a great group back then.”
Maryland may lack the star power it had in 1985, but Anthony Cowan Jr. and the current squad got the job done just fine in front of an announced crowd of 5,710 that filled the lower bowl and much of the second tier in Alumni Hall.
Cowan had a game-high 24 points. Darryl Morsell had 15, Aaron Wiggins had 12, and Jalen Smith added 11. Bruno Fernando led the team with 10 rebounds.
But what Coach Mark Turgeon was most eager to speak about afterward wasn’t his team’s win. Maryland, as is customary in the Veterans Classic, spent Thursday at the Naval Academy touring the yard and getting to know the Mids.
“I really just want to talk about the experience we’ve had over the last 48 hours. It’s been a tremendous trip for us,” Turgeon said. “. . . I thought my guys worked hard, until I started hanging around the students here and what they do to want to serve and be selfless. I think it was a real humbling experience for all of us. I think we learned a lot about the Naval Academy and what they stand for and how lucky we are. . . . The game was kind of an afterthought, to be honest with you.”
Added Morsell, “What I took away was these people are people who risk their lives for us to play and go to school, and I appreciate it.”
If Maryland appreciated the chance to play in the Classic, a split crowd in Alumni Hall loved getting the chance to watch the two local teams square off. The atmosphere was boisterous and grew louder with a second-half surge from the Mids.
Trailing 33-25 at the half, Navy scored the first seven points after intermission, including a three-pointer from John Carter Jr., to trim its margin to one. Another three, this one from George Kiernan, tied the game at 35 with 17:21 to play.
The Terps didn’t break away until Cowan took control six minutes later. The junior guard from Bowie hit a layup, then had a steal before finding Morsell for another basket, creating some breathing room for Maryland for the first time all half.
Cowan widened the gap minutes later when he drew a foul on a drive to the basket. Free throws were key for Maryland — the Terps outscored Navy 23-12 from the foul line, including 13-5 in the second half. Seventeen turnovers also hurt the Mids.
“We played great the last 14 minutes or so,” Turgeon said. “We spread the zone, shot a lot of free throws. The defense had a couple of droughts. . . . I was just trying to find the right combination. It wasn’t working in the high post, so we spread the zone. They gave me confidence with their great defense. I’m much more comfortable with my team than I was when the night started.”
Wichita State (1-1) defeated Providence (1-1), 83-80, in the opening game Friday thanks to senior forward Markis McDuffie’s career-high 32 points. McDuffie hit six three-pointers — one better than the Friars’ Alpha Diallo, who led Coach Ed Cooley’s team with 27 points.