Fernando, Salt battle inside as No. 4 Virginia tops Maryland
COLLEGE PARK Maryland 6-foot-10 sophomore Bruno Fernando and Jack Salt, a 6-10 redshirt senior for Virginia, had a game within a game here on Wednesday night.
The two big men both had solid offensive performances, though Salt and his teammates helped limit Fernando to just four points on just two shots after halftime as No. 4 Virginia held on to beat No. 24 Maryland 76-71.
Even in the loss Terps fans must be thrilled with the potential of their young team, and ESPN analyst Jay Bilas kept commending Maryland on the air in the final seconds of the nationally-televised contest.
Fernando fouled out after playing 17 minutes, 53 seconds in the first half and less than 14 in the second half. He had 14 points, but just four after halftime.
“It’s a process,” Fernando said of being on the court at the same time with teammate Jalen Smith. “We will take it one day at a time. We learned a lot of about ourselves.”
Salt had a career-high 12 points and a season-best seven rebounds as he made six of seven shots from the field. He entered the game averaging just 3.0 points per contest while Fernando was averaging 16.2.
“I think Jack challenged himself,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said of Salt.
Freshman reserve Aaron Wiggins and freshman starter Eric Ayala each had 13 points for Maryland, while point guard Anthony Cowan, Jr. had 15 points and four assists. Smith was held to six points.
“We fought back. Guys’ spirits weren’t low (after the game). This is a very talented team,” Ayala said of the Terps. “We expect a lot out of ourselves. We didn’t quit. Our fans were tremendous.”
The Terps fell to 6-1 but rallied from a 17-point deficit early in the second half to pull within three late in the contest.
Maryland shot 54 percent from the field against one of the top defenses in the country and won the battle of the boards 35-23.
But Virginia made just two turnovers while Maryland committed 14.
The Cavaliers tied a school record for fewest turnovers in a game and has won 25 straight games in the month of November. Virginia is 7-0 for the third year in a row.
While Maryland has a young team, the Cavaliers are an experienced NCAA squad.
“That is our formula,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said of using veteran players.