For Darryl Morsell, his game-winner vs. Minnesota is a product from years of work
Guard Darryl Morsell lunges for a steal during Maryland men's basketball's 74-73 win over Minnesota on Feb. 26, 2020, at Williams Arena. (Eric Andre/For The Diamondback)
Two years ago, Maryland men’s basketball guard Darryl Morsell was in a routine. He’d shoot copious amounts of extra shots after practice before turning to ice and heat to alleviate the pain from repeated flicks of the wrists from beyond the arc.
“He actually ices his wrists and has a heat pack on before the game because he practices shooting so much,” coach Mark Turgeon said on Jan. 2, 2018.
Turgeon revealed Morsell’s treatment habits after the then-freshman knocked down a key 3-pointer against Penn State, at the time just his second make from deep during a 3-for-25 debut season.
The Baltimore native has added that three-point shot to his arsenal, and the ice is no longer on his wrists. Instead, on Wednesday night, it was in his veins. It fueled his confidence to take the game-winning 3-pointer to lift the No. 9 Terps over Minnesota, 74-73.
“He’s not shy about shooting it. He’s not afraid to shoot it,” Turgeon said. “He has guts to do it, you know? And he knew he was going to make it.”
In late game situations, it’s typically guard Anthony Cowan who steps to the forefront and takes the biggest shots. Other times, it’s guard Aaron Wiggins, such as a late step-back three against Indiana on the road.
But on Wednesday, those two players wisely passed up contested three-point attempts to search for a better shot, even as the clock wound down in single-digits.
Trailing by two, and given life with a missed free throw on the front end of a 1-and-1, Turgeon wanted his team to score a quick two-point shot to force overtime. Instead, Wiggins swung the ball to Morsell for an open three from well beyond the arc.
“My teammates believe in me, coach Turgeon believes in me,” Morsell said.
Wiggins wasn’t wary about yielding possession to Morsell in that moment. Even when the junior took the shot, Wiggins said his confidence in the shot falling never wavered.
“Late game in a situation like that, when a guy shoots the ball, I feel like he’s at his highest in terms of confidence,” Wiggins said. “So, I mean, I knew if he was going to shoot it, he felt like it was going in.”
Back in his freshman season, when Morsell converted threes at a paltry 12-percent clip, it would have been hard to imagine him stepping into a clutch 3-pointer from deep to silence an away crowd.
But the 6-foot-5 guard worked tirelessly to add the threat of a three-point shot to his game, which would serve as a complement to his ability to slash and get to the rim. Morsell’s success rate from deep rose to 29 percent as a sophomore, and ii now sits at 35 percent during his junior campaign.
He still has late-night escapades to Xfinity Center to get extra shots up with a graduate assistant. And in practice, assistant coach Bino Ranson puts Morsell through late-clock situations to ratchet up the pressure.
Both experiences enabled Morsell to be prepared for the moment on Wednesday night.
“It’s all work though, man,” Morsell said. “Like I said, I’m in the gym all the time.”
Morsell tried to recall the last time he hit a shot of that magnitude and thought back to his days playing youth basketball, when he converted game-winning baskets. He said there may have been one in high school, but couldn’t be certain.
“Nothing was as big as that, nothing,” Morsell said. “That’s probably the biggest game-winner I’ve ever made in my life.”
Whether in practice or in a game, Morsell has likely hit a similar shot before from a few feet beyond the arc. After all, he did have to ice his wrists because of the profuse amount of shooting he’d do during his freshman year.
But he had never made that shot — or any shot, for that matter — in a moment like Wednesday night, when he silenced the Minnesota crowd and propelled Maryland to an improbable come-from-behind victory.
“It was a huge shot,” said forward Jalen Smith, who grew up with Morsell in Baltimore. “Probably one of the biggest shots he’s hit in his life.”