Jackson State guard Paris Collins slapped the floor on defense with about six and half minutes remaining Monday evening, igniting boos from many of the 13,103 fans at Xfinity Center. The Tigers were within two points of Maryland and had momentum, giving Collins the confidence to make that gesture.
But on the ensuing Maryland possession, guard Anthony Cowan threw a lob to forward Bruno Fernando. The freshman slammed an and-one dunk and stared down his defender until teammates pulled him away. On Jackson State’s next possession, Fernando blocked Collins, helping Maryland create distance with a 10-2 run.
“I thought I could … answer for what they were saying,” Fernando said.
Fernando has flashed his energy throughout his first five Maryland games while displaying the athleticism his teammates have lauded. That confidence was on full display in Maryland’s 76-45 win over the Tigers as Fernando recorded 18 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
“That was something last year that we missed sometimes in big games is to be able to throw the ball in and get a bucket,” guard Kevin Huerter said. “Bruno does that.”
While Fernando paced the Terps (5-0), forward Justin Jackson and Huerter each showed improvement after inconsistent offensive starts to the season.
Jackson, who entered the game shooting 1-for-10 from beyond the arc, sunk three of his eight treys. Huerter scored 14 points and committed just one turnover after giving away the ball five times in each of his past two appearances.
“We are a lot better,” Turgeon said, “when Kevin plays like that.”
Fernando scored seven of Maryland’s first eight points, but Jackson State (1-3) went on a 6-0 run midway through the half as the Terps went scoreless for nearly five minutes. Fernando was on the bench for most of that stretch. After returning to the court, Fernando broke the drought with an and-one layup with 8:04 remaining in the half.
Still, the Terps’ struggles against zone defense from last season continued into Monday. Maryland plays Syracuse — historically known for running one of the nation’s most effective 2-3 zones — on Nov. 27. Plus, the Terps have committed 51 turnovers in their past three games, a weakness that could be exacerbated by the Orange.
Huerter said the Terps are still figuring out the best big man to feed the ball to on the high post, and the sophomore said the team will showcase more plays to break zones against foes like Syracuse.
“I told the team after the game that since they played zone against us, it would help us a lot moving forward,” Turgeon said. “We hadn’t seen a lot of zone this year and we saw a 3-2, 2-3 and a half court trap.”
Guard Darryl Morsell limped off the court during Maryland’s poor stretch and received help on his way to the training room. The freshman, who entered Monday averaging 10.8 points per game, strained his hamstring and is day-to-day, leaving Anthony Cowan as the team’s lone true point guard.
“He’s pretty important to us,” Turgeon said. “We’ve got to get him back.”
Still, Fernando, one of Morsell’s good friends, notched Maryland’s first four points out of intermission. Huerter, Jackson and guard Jared Nickens (14 points) helped Maryland take a 29-point lead at the under-four timeout.
Turgeon has assured Fernando would continue to improve as he returned to basketball shape following a preseason high ankle sprain. After scoring 14 points to help Maryland come back from a 15-point halftime deficit against Bucknell on Saturday, Fernando again displayed his explosiveness with Maryland’s toughest nonconference stretch coming next weekend.
“He has come a long way in five games,” Turgeon said. “For him to be doing what he’s doing is pretty amazing.”