Maryland handles Radford behind Fernando’s double-double
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Maryland had only one of its imposing frontcourt starters available for its nonconference finale against Radford.
It proved to be more than enough.
Bruno Fernando had 19 points and 12 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season and Maryland shook off a slow start to deal Radford a 78-64 loss on Saturday.
Eric Ayala scored 14 points and Darryl Morsell added 13 for the Terrapins (10-3). Maryland was without freshman forward Jalen “Stix” Smith, who was sidelined with an illness. Smith is averaging 11.9 points and 7.2 rebounds.
“I guess it was just Stix wasn’t going to play, so we were a little down,” freshman forward Ricky Lindo Jr. said. “It’s just next man stepping up, and that’s what we did.”
Travis Fields Jr. had a game-high 22 points and Carlik Jones added 20 for the Highlanders (7-6), who led for much of the first half but ultimately failed to add Maryland to a list of prominent nonconference victims that includes Notre Dame and Texas.
Radford scored on its first eight possessions of the game, building a 19-10 lead. But the Highlanders missed their next 13 shots, and Maryland eventually slogged its way to a 34-32 lead at the break.
“We just had to change our mindset and our approach,” Morsell said. That was really the main thing. It wasn’t anything really Xs-and-Os. We just had to lock in.”
The Highlanders briefly reclaimed the lead early in the second half at 39-36 before Maryland uncorked a 27-6 run to effectively seal it. Fernando had nine points during the stretch and 13 in the second half.
Fernando is averaging 14.5 points and 9.6 rebounds. The 6-foot-10 sophomore was 6 of 7 from the floor, improving his field goal percentage to 70 percent (73 of 104).
“He’s really good,” Radford coach Mike Jones said. “He’s like three of our guys. Trying to keep him off the glass and trying to guard him, they figured out he’s pretty good at passing out of the double. Once he did that, it was kind of tough to contain them.”
For his part, Fernando pointed to Maryland’s defensive improvement as the game unfolded. The Highlanders averaged 2.38 points per possession in their first eight trips, then mustered just 0.8 points a trip the rest of the game.
“Being able to come back in the second half and focus on defense and getting a lot of stops,” Fernando said. “I think we got 11 stops in a row, which says a lot about our defense and how we can do great as we just focus on the things coach is asking us to do.”
Radford: It’s easy to see how the Highlanders could win at Notre Dame and Texas and why they were picked to repeat as Big South champions. Jones is an exceptional lead guard, and Ed Polite Jr. is a prototypical mid-major power forward. The Highlanders should win much more than they lose during their 16-game conference schedule.
Maryland: The Terps avoided back-to-back losses for the first time this season and bounced back from a Dec. 22 loss to Seton Hall.
“What I was pleased about is how we responded to the last game and the things were trying to do to make our team better,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “We are who we are. Our record is what it is, but it’s really about what lies ahead — that’s what’s important.”
Polite grew up in Lanham, Md., about a 15-minute drive from Maryland’s campus. He had nine points and seven rebounds before his hometown crowd.
With Smith out, redshirt sophomore Joshua Tomaic made his second career start and the first this season. He had no points and one rebound in six minutes.
Radford completes its nonconference schedule with a New Year’s Day matinee against Division II Mars Hill.
Maryland resumes Big Ten play Wednesday when Nebraska visits College Park.
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