Darryl Morsell stood on the wing, patiently waiting for a gap to appear. His right shoulder was cloaked in a clunky brace — the Maryland men’s basketball guard had partially popped it out of place in the first half, coach Mark Turgeon said.
Yet Morsell was back on the court. And with a little over six minutes left and Rutgers rallying, he was calm. Morsell slipped to the rim as the Scarlet Knights’ bigs converged.
Then, he pump-faked. Rutgers’ defenders went flying, giving Morsell room to maneuver. He shifted the ball into his right hand and scooped it off the glass, giving the Terps an eight-point lead — one they wouldn’t relinquish.
And in that moment, Morsell’s grit was on full display. With Maryland in need of another victory to solidify its tournament hopes, the senior guard came to play. Now, the Terps are in a position that seemed so unlikely just weeks ago: on the brink of another NCAA tournament appearance.
“He’s just special like that,” Turgeon said.
Morsell has gotten used to wearing armor in recent weeks. He rocked a face mask for more than a month after suffering a facial fracture against then-No. 16 Michigan on New Years Eve.
The mask came off when Maryland took on Minnesota on Feb. 14, a 72-59 win in which Morsell locked up Naismith Player of the Year candidate Marcus Carr to the tune of nine points on 4-of-15 shooting.
“I’m a competitor,” Morsell said after the game. “I like to compete. I know if he has a tough night and he can’t really get going, it’s gonna be hard for their offense to get going. I set my goal when I step on the court just to try to make it as tough as possible for him.”
Still, the Scarlet Knights offered a unique challenge. Teeming with high-scoring guards, Steve Pikiell’s side seemed well-placed to test a stout Terps defense.
That challenge only grew when Morsell pulled up, clutching his right shoulder, with a little under seven minutes left in the first half.
Morsell returned to the court three minutes later with his shoulder wrapped. Trainers had popped it back in place, Turgeon said.
Yet, he showed few signs of wear and tear, thrusting himself right back into his defensive matchup. It started with Ron Harper Jr., who torched Maryland for 27 when the two sides faced each other back in December.
Morsell wasn’t fazed, though, using his quickness and positioning to frustrate Rutgers’ star guard. Harper Jr. scored six points on 1-of-6 shooting, unable to cope with Morsell’s constant pressure.
“He’s the heart and soul of our team,” Eric Ayala said. “His energy, it rubs off on everybody.”
Soon, it was Jacob Young who drew Morsell’s gaze. The senior guard began to bubble up in the second, scoring six points in quick succession to bring the Scarlet Knights within 10.
Young found little joy up against Morsell, though. The Baltimore native applied wave after wave of pressure on Rutgers’ talisman Sunday afternoon.
Young hit just one field goal in the game’s final 10 minutes, struggling to find space amid Morsell’s defensive effort.
“We started him on Harper, and then Young got going, so we pushed him over to Young,” Turgeon said, “and then Young wasn’t scoring anymore.”
And fueled by his defensive contributions, Morsell began to find his scoring touch. He scored seven points in the second half, accentuated by his scooped finish through contact. The basket helped break the Terps out of their second half stupor, giving them a platform to close the game out.
And although Morsell was forced to depart after reaggravating his injury with four minutes left, the damage was done. With 12 points, three steals and countless shot contests, Morsell helped push Maryland to a resume-building victory — one that might have sealed the Terps’ tournament credentials once and for all.
Now, all they can do is wait for their senior leader to make his return.
“When he went out, I was telling him ‘Get that together and come back in the game,’” Ayala said. “I know how important he is, we all know how important he is. Hopefully, he can hurry up and get back.”