A lethargic Maryland attack finally found its groove in the second half.

Daniel Maltz cut to the net and scored his fourth goal of the game with a simple finish in front of the net off a Braden Erksa assist, converting on a clear scoring opportunity — chances the Terps started to create more of after halftime.

No. 9 Maryland men’s lacrosse (3-1) scored just three first-half goals for the first time since 2019 but ramped its efforts after halftime to take advantage of its stout defense in a 11-5 victory over No. 3 Princeton (2-1) Saturday.

“You’ve got to give Princeton’s defense a lot of credit for the first half performance,” coach John Tillman said. “We just talked about maybe changing things up a little bit [in the second half]. We did get some good locations in terms of where we were on the field, and I just felt like we shot better in the second half.”

The Terps beat the Tigers last year in the regular season and in the NCAA semifinal. Saturday’s win extended their winning streak against Princeton to six games. They haven’t lost to the Tigers since 2004.

Goalkeeper Logan McNaney played a crucial part in performance in that Final Four victory with 19 saves but the Terps were without him or any experienced face in net Saturday as freshman Brian Ruppel earned his first career start.

“We had to make a decision last week, we went with Teddy,” Tillman said. “He had the experience, and I thought he did enough for us to win last week but we also feel really good about Brian … I think Brian proved that he was ready for the moment.”

Ruppel was the beneficiary of Maryland’s robust defense in the opening quarter. He needed to make just one save as the Terps shut out the Tigers in the first frame.

[Maryland men’s lacrosse aims to ‘keep it simple’ for new goalkeeper Teddy Dolan]

Maryland’s defense forced six turnovers in the opening 15 minutes and turned that into offense early. A Princeton giveaway in midfield led to a quick transition strike from the Terps’ top-scorer, Daniel Kelly, to give Maryland the lead just over two minutes in.

Coach John Tillman’s squad struggled to get looks in settled situations throughout the first 15 minutes. Two of their three first-quarter turnovers came off shot clock violations. Owen Murphy eventually breached a set Tigers defense to double the Terps’ lead with 50 seconds left in the frame.

Princeton finally broke through just over three minutes into the second quarter as Coulter Mackesy’s bouncing shot snuck just underneath the crossbar, forcing Ruppel to dig the ball out of his own net for the first time in his collegiate career.

A Daniel Maltz response would be the only other goal in a half that ended with Maryland taking a 3-1 lead. Both teams’ goalies combined for 19 saves in the first half while the Terps and the Tigers both turned the ball over eight times each.

The Terps doubled their scoring output within the first seven and a half minutes of the third quarter.

[Shooting percentage, offensive efficiency down for Maryland men’s lacrosse early in season]

Kelly slotted his second goal of the game. Then Maltz scored three times to give Maryland a 7-2 lead.

Princeton’s Tyler Sandoval appeared to notch an important momentum-swinging response straight off the ensuing faceoff, racing straight to the net and scoring on an acrobatic attempt.

However, he was assessed to have an illegal stick, wiping out the goal and resulting in a three-minute unreleasable penalty against the Tigers.

The Terps took advantage in the final seconds of the man-up opportunity as Jack Koras scored to give Tillman’s squad an insurmountable six-goal advantage. Maryland went 3-for-6 on man-up opportunities throughout the game while Princeton failed on its only attempt.

“The guys had a good sense of what we wanted to try to do on man-up and it wasn’t always pretty, but those goals were pretty timely. They were huge for us,” Tillman said.

Maryland entered the fourth quarter with a seven-goal cushion but saw its offensive efficiency dry up in the last 15 minutes. The Tigers tried to take advantage, scoring twice in quick succession to spark a potential comeback.

But the Terps’ defense held strong and held Princeton scoreless for the remainder of the game. Maryland allowed a season-low in goals and held the Tigers’ to their lowest total since 2016 in its first road victory of the year as Ruppel completed his first career start with 14 saves.