Maryland men’s basketball beats Rutgers, 68-59, for fourth straight win, bolstering NCAA tournament hopes

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Daniel Oyefusi, The Baltimore Sun
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The film from the Maryland men’s basketball team’s first meeting with Rutgers, on Dec. 14, 2020, was so old that coach Mark Turgeon wasn’t sure how much would his players would benefit from revisiting it.

Since the 74-60 loss at Xfinity Center in both teams’ first Big Ten Conference game of the season, Maryland had grown, buying into a collective defensive approach and learning how to move the ball and play inside-out with its undersized lineups.

The Terps showed their growth at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, New Jersey, beating the Scarlet Knights, 68-59, on Sunday afternoon.

The Terps’ entire starting five scored in double figures, led by junior guard Eric Ayala’s 14 points, as Maryland (14-10, 8-9 Big Ten Conference) won its fourth straight game to bolster its NCAA tournament hopes with three games remaining before the conference tournament begins March 10.

From the 10:46 mark of the first half, Maryland had the advantage. The Terps led 28-20 at halftime, holding the Scarlet Knights without a made field goal over the final 5:16. Rutgers’ 20 points are the fewest it has scored in any half this season.

Maryland led by as many as 15 in the second half, but Rutgers responded with an 11-2 run to cut the Terps’ lead to six, 47-41, with 7:37 left in the game, prompting Turgeon to call a timeout. Maryland went on a 6-0 run to push its lead to 12, including four straight points by senior guard Darryl Morsell, who made an acrobatic layup and then ran the floor for a transition dunk after a steal by junior forward Jairus Hamilton.

Morsell exited the game in the first half after injuring his shoulder on an offensive rebound but returned to the game with a brace around his shoulder. The Mount Saint Joseph graduate, who finished with 12 points and three assists and three steals, reinjured the shoulder in the second half and exited for the remainder of the game with about four minutes left.

The Terps made 17 of their 18 free throws in the second half, much of them in the game’s final minutes, as they held off the late comeback bid from the Scarlet Knights.

Guards Jacob Young and Geo Baker combined for 31 points to lead Rutgers (12-9, 8-9), which shot 38% from the field and made five of 22 3-point attempts, missing 11 straight shots at one point.

Guard Ron Harper Jr., who scored 27 points in the teams’ first meeting, was held to six points on 1-for-6 shooting.

This story will be updated.

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