While both teams desperately needed the win, Maryland and Minnesota each were very short handed against one another.
As they have been for quite some time now, the Terps were without Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s Amir Coffey was forced to miss his fifth consecutive game with a shoulder injury. Reggie Lynch was also held out of the game once again due to his lengthy suspension.
The Gophers and Terps traded blows in what was a very evenly played first half. However, Maryland went on a key 10-0 run early in the second half to build a 39-32 lead and never looked back.
Maryland’s second half lead grew to as large as 17 and Minnesota really didn’t have any answers for the Terps in the final 20 minutes. Once Maryland took a double digit lead with 13:40 remaining Minnesota was never able to creep within 10.
Let’s see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned
1. Michal Cekovsky is Finally Showing Us What He’s Made Of
Though there have been high hopes for Michal Cekovsky since he arrived in College Park in 2014, the center’s collegiate potential has been utterly tainted by injuries.
Constant injuries have inhibited Cekovsky from getting into a rhythm in each of his three full seasons as a Terp. In fact, Cekovsky missed over half of the 2016-’17 season. However, this season has been close to injury free for the big man.
Cekovsky has finally been able to get into the routine of playing games consistently. And with that, the center has seemed to find his groove.
Cekovsky has scored at least 10 points in four of Maryland’s last six games. He has been extremely effective with the ball in his hand, shooting 71.8 percent from the field in that span. This includes a 17-point outing against the Gophers in which Cekovsky knocked down 7-10 field goals.
With Maryland continuing to battle injuries, it’s very significant that Cekovsky has been able to shed the injury bug for the time being.
2. Gophers are Far From Figuring Out How to Win Without Coffey and Lynch
Losing two key, impactful players such as Amir Coffey and Reggie Lynch obviously results in a very difficult transition.
Even though Coffey could return to Minnesota’s lineup soon, the Gophers are losing ground at a dangerous pace. The Gophers have lost four of five games since Coffey and Lynch left the rotation. Three of those losses have also been by double digits.
This team clearly doesn’t know how to win without Coffey and Lynch. Getting Coffey back will help, but Gopher fans have to hope that will be soon. Minnesota has already lost seven games. It can’t afford to lose many more if it wants to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
3. Darryl Morsell Looks More Comfortable
One of the few positive things to take away from Maryland’s devastating injuries this season is the fact that it’s forced freshman guard Darryl Morsell to step into a prominent role early into his career.
The former four-star recruit has loads of potential. If the Terps were healthier this season, Morsell’s adjustment to the collegiate level may not be as far along as it is now.
The freshman has played at least 30 minutes in Maryland’s last nine games and is clearly continuing to improve. Morsell is averaging 10.3 points and 7.3 boards over his last four games.
Morsell will continue to play a vital role for the Terps as the season goes on.
A key thing to takeaway from Maryland and Minnesota’s Thursday night clash is that even though Minnesota took a step forward when it recently defeated Penn State, it just took an equal step back when it lost to Maryland.
Though it seemed the answers to playing without Coffey and Lynch had been found, they clearly have not.
Also, be sure to keep an eye on Morsell. Injuries are never a good thing. But, the fact that Maryland has had to face so many injuries this season could make Morsell a better player in the end. He is playing with much more comfort and intensity than many freshman are able to.