The Maryland Terrapins looked sluggish in the first 20 minutes against Bucknell Saturday night. They may have had a reason to be after going through a 12 round bout Wednesday in a 79-65 victory over Butler. The Terrapins trailed by 15 points at the half against the Bison before out-scoring them 45-28 in the second half to rally and win 80-78.
Here is what we learned from the Terrapin’s comeback win.
What We Learned
1. Darryl Morsell is a major scoring threat off the bench
Trailing by 15 at the half, the Terrapins needed a spark. It was not Justin Jackson who scored just seven points on 3 of 11 shooting. Instead it was Darryl Morsell.
Morsell came off of the bench in Saturday night’s victory and put up 15 points, 12 of them coming in that second half comeback, to provide the spark and lead Maryland back from the dead.
The comeback began as soon as the second half started as Maryland went on a 10-3 run. Morsell was the catalyst in that run as he tallied eight of the ten points.
Morsell’s performance was not a “one night wonder” act. In fact this is already the third time he has come off the bench to score double digits, each statline increasing as the season has moved on. In a win against Maryland Eastern-Shore the freshman scored 11 points off the bench. Against Butler on Wednesday, he came in and tallied 13 points and on Saturday night the 15 points, a new career high.
In nights that Justin Jackson, one of the best sophomores in the Big Ten is on an off night, the bench scoring threat that Morsell is becoming will provide a huge impact throughout the rest of Maryland’s season.
2. By year’s end the win versus Bucknell is a win against a tournament team
Reading this you may think I sound crazy. Why would a win against a now 0-4 Bucknell team even be remotely close to a “good win”.
However, the Bison return all five of their starters, led by senior guard Stephen Brown who scored a season high 23 points against the Terrapins, from a 2016 team that won the Patriot League last season and went to the NCAA tournament.
Bucknell has already played multiple teams this season that will be in the running for an NCAA tournament bid, including the defending champions North Carolina, where the Bison worked their way back from a 16 point deficit to trail by single digits at the half and trailed by four with six minutes remaining.
Maryland will be in the NCAA tournament. So will Bucknell. Being tested and beating a potential tournament team early in the season will be considered a good win come Selection Sunday.
3. This may be the toughest test for Terrapins until conference play
Lets face it. Other than the Butler game, Maryland does not have any great competition on their non-conference schedule. Their next toughest game is on the 27th when they travel to take on a Syracuse team that missed the tournament last season and is surrounded by questions this year.
The Terrapins won’t even face a ranked opponent until the first day of December when they host Purdue and wont play another until Jan. 4th when they travel to East Lansing to play Michigan State. Having a wakeup call early against a lesser team may be more beneficial to Maryland than you may think.
With the Terrapins cruising through their first three games before Saturday night, Bucknell’s effort will give Maryland a chance to refocus and come out of the non-conference portion of their schedule unblemished.
Mark Turgeon came out of Saturday night’s win with a lot of bad that needs to be fixed but a lot of good that he can come back to down the road.
Maryland learned a lot about themselves as a team against the Bison. They found out that even with their best player struggling to get into any rhythm at all and trailing by double digits entering the second quarter, they have the offensive firepower on the court and on the bench to get themselves out of danger.
By season’s end a comeback win against an 0-4 Bucknell team will be a moment that Turgeon will look back at as one of the defining moments of Maryland’s season.