Terps get by messy first half
Maryland had 14 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes
COLLEGE PARK — The No. 7 Maryland men’s basketball team overcame a messy start Saturday night against Rhode Island, turning the ball over 10 times in the first 10 minutes and 14 times in the first half while falling behind by 12 points.
Still, the Terps somehow took a threepoint halftime lead and went on to a 73-55 victory over the Rams at Xfinity Center.
Sophomore forward Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph) had his second straight double double to start the season, leading Maryland with 19 points, including 13 in the second half, and 11 rebounds. Sophomore wing Aaron Wiggins had his first career double double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Sophomore guard Eric Ayala came off the bench to help spark his team’s late first-half comeback and took over at the point for most of the second half to finish with 13 points. After going scoreless in the first half, senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. finished with 14 points and five assists.
Trying to avoid its first loss as a top-10 team to an unranked nonconference foe since losing to Arizona in the 2001-02 season opener — the year the Terps went on to win their only national championship — Maryland (2-0) used its 3-2 zone defense to get back in the game and a solid man-toman to break it open in the second half.
Trailing 28-20 late in the first half, the Terps went on a 10-0 run to take their first lead of the game at 30-28 with 1:19 left on a 3-pointer by freshman forward Donta Scott. Maryland led at halftime, 35-32, on the first 3-pointer of the season by Wiggins, who had missed his first seven tries.
Maryland clamped down defensively on the Rams in the second half and stopped turning the ball over. After Rhode Island tied the game at 35 on it’s first possession of the half, a 3-point play by Ayala gave the Terps the lead for good. Maryland committed just two turnovers in the second half.
A 3-point play by Wiggins with 7:30 remaining gave Maryland a 59-45 lead.
Senior guard Jeff Dowtin, who teamed with Cowan in the backcourt at St. John’s High and helped the Cadets win a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship over DeMatha and future No. 1 NBA draft pick Markelle Fultz, led Rhode Island (1-1) with 14 points.
After spending much of the preseason playing faster, Maryland still had trouble in the first half playing slow in a half-court offense. Many of the 14 first-half turnovers were the result of too many players trying to go one-on-one. Coach Mark Turgeon will now have a solid week of practice to correct that, with Maryland’s next game not until next Saturday against Oakland.
Maryland guard Eric Ayala reacts after scoring a basket against Rhode Island on Saturday in College Park.