One year after watching three freshmen do much of the heavy lifting for his third straight NCAA Tournament team, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon must feel like he is experiencing déjÃ vu. Behind the impressive early play of first-year players Bruno Fernando and Darryl Morsell, the Terrapins eye their fourth 6-0 start in as many seasons Friday when they face St. Bonaventure in a third-round game of the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Fla.
Then-freshmen Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson combined for an average of 30.1 points in 2016-17 to complement Melo Trimble, who declared for the NBA Draft following his junior campaign. While Cowan and Huerter have taken on more prominent roles this season, the 6-10 Fernando (11.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.0 blocks per game) and the 6-4 Morsell (8.8 points) have each stepped into key roles for the Terrapins. The Bonnies have yet to play with two-time All-Atlantic 10 point guard Jaylen Adams (ankle), but they have won two straight since dropping a 77-75 decision to Niagara in their season opener. Freshmen also ruled the day for St. Bonaventure in its last outing, as first-year players Tshiefu Ngalakulondi (11.5 points) and Izaiah Brockington (7.0) combined for 39 points in Monday’s 96-48 thrashing of Maryland-Eastern Shore.
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
ABOUT ST. BONAVENTURE (2-1): Ngalakulondi scored 21 and Brockington had 18, both career highs, as the Bonnies recorded 16 steals, turned 23 UMES turnovers into 23 points and shot a season-best 61.5 percent from the floor, including 14-of-24 beyond the arc. Matt Mobley is the other half of the St. Bonaventure’s preseason all-conference backcourt, ranks second in the Atlantic 10 in scoring (25 points per game) -- despite finishing with a season-low 19 against the Hawks -- and has drained at least three 3-pointers in every game. Junior Nelson Kaputo has filled in at point guard for Adams during his absence and also enjoyed a career game Monday, posting career highs of 15 points and five steals.
ABOUT MARYLAND (5-0): Morsell, who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week earlier in the day, was forced to leave after six minutes with a hamstring injury Monday, but Fernando stepped up with a season-high 18 points and six rebounds in a 76-45 thumping of Jackson State. “For (Fernando) to be doing what he’s doing (after missing two to three weeks of practice time) is pretty amazing. He is showing great patience and great confidence on the low block. Defensively, he has been off the charts,” Turgeon said. Two games after becoming the first Terrapin since Greivis Vasquez in 2009 to post 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in the same contest, Cowan (team-high 14.6 points) went 0-for-5 from the floor Monday and failed to score for the first time in his career.
1. Turgeon referred to Morsell’s injury as a “slight hamstring strain” and said the freshman was “day-to-day” following the Jackson State victory.
2. In addition to handing coach Mark Schmidt his 250th career win Monday, the Bonnies posted their largest margin of victory since routing Baldwin-Wallace (Ohio) by 50 points in 1974.
3. Entering Wednesday, the Terrapins rank fourth nationally in rebounding margin (plus-17.2), one year after finishing 183rd in that category (plus-0.4).
PREDICTION: Maryland 81, St. Bonaventure 68