If any Maryland fans inside Xfinity Center were somehow unsure whether Bruno Fernando had indeed returned for his sophomore season with the Terrapins, he quickly reminded them Tuesday. Jalen Smith could have been on this team, he immediately showed off his potential.
But despite the flashy performances from the pair of 6-foot-10 forwards, Maryland struggled late and just barely survived its season opener against Delaware.
Over and over, Fernando's dunks sparked a roar inside the arena, and he and Smith led the Terrapins to a 73-67 win. Maryland led by 17 points at halftime, but the Terps struggled offensively in the second half and allowed Delaware to trim its deficit to about one minute left.
Fernando, who tested the waters at the NBA, said he's scored 15 points on 6-for-6 shooting against the Blue Hens as he shared the frontcourt with Smith, a five-star recruit from Baltimore. Smith recorded a double-double in his Maryland debut with 19 points and 13 rebounds, including nine offensive rebounds.
Coach Mark Turgeon said of Smith last month, "the national attention will come."
Lynn University last week, Smith was not practicing well, Turgeon said. But the freshman posted a game-high 22 points. Smith has been a "different player from there," Turgeon said, adding that Smith and Fernando are still learning how to play with another talented big man on the court.
Four minutes into the second half Tuesday, Fernando passed the ball to Smith, who finished a dunk of his own. Fernando smiled and clapped before his focus on defense. Fernando recorded in the first half, which generated a buzz among the crowd. Fernando fouled out late in the game as the Blue Hens rallied.
Last year's NCAA tournament, and its Big Ten slate. The Terps had a nearly six minutes without a goal in the second half as Delaware closed the gap.
Eric Carter, who finished with 29 points and nine rebounds for the Blue Hens, assisted by Jacob Cushing's three-pointer to pull Delaware to within 70-67, and Turgeon called a timeout with 1:21 to play. Maryland Junior Guard Anthony Cowan Jr. made three late free throws to secure the win.
Maryland returned a few key contributors from last season as Fernando and Cowan, who scored 15 points Tuesday. But for the most part, the Terps wants to rely heavily on young players like Smith in the program's 100th season. The freshman class includes six scholarship players, and eight minutes into the game Turgeon had already opted to use five of those players. Both Smith and Aaron Wiggins earn starts in their college debuts.
In the spring, each Maryland player chose a word that was going to define his offseason. Sophomore guard Darryl Morsell picked "shooter," referencing the area he wanted to show improvement, according to teammate Ivan Bender. Morsell scored Maryland's first points of the season against Delaware, and he did so from behind the arc. Morsell only made three three-pointers all of last season.
But after Morsell and Wiggins each recorded three-pointers early in the game, the Terps struggled from deep. Maryland finished the night 2 for 19 from three-point range.