With Jahmir Young out against Coppin State on Thursday, coach Kevin Willard entrusted backup guard Jahari Long with his first start in a Maryland jersey.
It wasn’t Long’s first start under Willard. The senior followed his coach from Seton Hall to College Park after a pair of seasons largely marred by injuries — he missed multiple stretches of games with COVID-19 before suffering a knee injury early during his sophomore season after starting multiple games for the Pirates.
Long learned he’d start on Wednesday with Young ill. After an injury-free junior year and start to his senior season, one of the Terps’ first options off the bench notched career highs in minutes and points in his first start at Xfinity Center. He led Maryland men’s basketball’s offense as it stormed past Coppin State, 75-53, on Thursday.
“The main thing I feel like I improved [since joining Maryland] was just my confidence, and the confidence came from me being healthy,” Long said.
The Terps ended their nonconference slate and 2023 with their fifth consecutive win. They’ll resume Big Ten play and open 2024 with a contest against No. 1 Purdue on Jan. 2.
Young, who recorded a career-high 37 points against UCLA in the Terps’ last outing, did not play against the Golden Eagles due to a flu, per a team spokesperson.
Long started in Young’s place and made an early impact. The guard grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a mid-range jumper before nailing a three on the Terps’ next possession to give Maryland (9-4) its first lead of the night.
“I have a lot of confidence in Jahari,” Willard said. “It was a good opportunity for him to kind of step in and see what he can do and take advantage of the opportunity.”
The senior had a similar impact early in the second half, making his second three-pointer of the night before blowing past multiple defenders and sinking a layup on the next possession to extend a large Terps lead. Long surpassed his career high in scoring and finished the game with 15 points.
“His offensive game has gotten much better and I think he’s got more confidence in his offensive game [since joining Maryland],” Willard said. “He really is the one guy off the bounce that can beat anybody off the dribble. … He’s starting to realize the skill he has, the game he has. And the more minutes he gets, I think the more confidence he gets.”
Julian Reese notched a career-high 24 points and added 10 rebounds in last year’s meeting between Maryland and Coppin State. The junior thrived against a smaller Golden Eagles team once again Thursday and led the Terps in the interior, scoring 14 points on 7-for-9 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds in the first half as Maryland recorded a majority of its points in the paint.
Reese finished with a game-high 18 points on 9-for-13 shooting and 10 rebounds.
The junior sparked multiple runs early, but it was backup center Caelum Swanton-Rodger who, with an and-one dunk, started a 12-0 run over a nearly eight-minute stretch in the first half. The Terps limited Coppin State (1-13) to just 18 points in the opening 20 minutes, the lowest total of any Maryland opponent at the break this season, and took a 20-point lead into halftime.
After recording just two points in the opening half, Donta Scott pitched in with a team-high 10 points in the second half on a historic night. Scott broke the Maryland record for most games played in program history with 142, surpassing Juan Dixon and Jake Layman.
The fifth-year senior also moved into third on the all-time career starts list with 127 behind Steve Blake (136) and Anthony Cowan Jr. (130) as the Terps handed the Golden Eagles their sixth consecutive loss and ended 2023 on a high.