- The Washington Times
Monday, December 14, 2020

As Ron Harper skipped back down the floor, he drew an imaginary arrow from his pretend quiver and fired the invisible projectile off with his make-believe bow.

The Rutgers guard had just drained another 3-pointer, this time part of a 10-point run that offered the Scarlet Knights breathing room again midway through the second half. That effort forced Maryland coach Mark Turgeon to call a timeout, attempting to temper the tide rising against his team.

But Harper and No. 19 Rutgers held onto that second-half advantage, securing a 74-60 win over the Terrapins to open Big Ten play Monday night at home. Maryland suffered its second straight defeat, failing to rebound from last week’s heavy loss to Clemson with another uneven shooting display.

“In the second half, Harper just said, ‘Ah, I’m taking over the game,’” Turgeon said.

With the way Harper played — sinking five triples as part of his 27 points — the Terrapins didn’t have an answer. Forward Donta Scott, who has emerged early in his sophomore year as a scoring threat, carried Maryland during the second half, producing his fifth double-digit scoring performance in the first six games of the season.

Whenever he hit a big shot, though, Rutgers seemed to answer. Scott opened the second half with a trey, and then Harper and guard Jacob Young spouted off a 7-0 run. When Scott knocked down a three-point attempt to cut the deficit to single digits, there Harper was again with a three of his own.

“He was a problem,” Maryland guard Eric Ayala said. “He was filling it up throughout the night, and he hit a lot of big shots. We would get on a run, and he would come down. He played pretty big for them.”

And after Scott hit another long-distance try — part of his team-high 20 points — it was guard Geo Baker’s turn to respond. Baker returned Monday after missing the previous three games with an ankle injury, and the senior chipped in 15 points on 6-for-14 shooting.

Harper entered Monday’s contest averaging 22.2 points per game while shooting 45.8 percent from deep. With him leading the charge for Rutgers, Maryland couldn’t find a way to bounce back from a dismal showing last week against Clemson.

In that 67-51 loss, an anemic shooting performance in the first half buried the Terrapins. They turned the ball over 10 times and made six shots during that opening period, and Turgeon said his team played selfishly — watching the ballhandler dribble rather than creating openings.

“What else can we really do?” Maryland guard Darryl Morsell said when asked if that loss was the type of game his team could respond from. Against a talented Scarlet Knights team, Maryland felt it improved from last time out, despite the Terrapins shot 34.4 percent from the floor. The looks, Turgeon said, were there — even if the shots didn’t fall.

“It was way better than Clemson,” Scott said. “We moved the ball more, and got more spacing, more cutting.”

Still, mismatches presented themselves throughout the night, first with Harper on offense and then with Myles Johnson on defense. The 6-foot-11 center tallied 10 points and 16 rebounds, and he threw down one of three Rutgers dunks during a 10-0 scoring run midway through the first half.

But when the Terrapins switched to zone late in the first half, Rutgers’ offense slowed down. The Scarlet Knights hit one of their final 11 shots, and Maryland took advantage, going on a 15-4 run to close the half and establish a 28-27 lead — even though Turgeon’s squad missed all seven 3-pointers in the frame.

Harper took over in the second half, though, piling on 19 of his points in the final 20 minutes of play. As he splashed from deep over and over in that frame, he unleashed that bow-and-arrow celebration again and again.

And with each draw and release, Harper and Rutgers held Maryland at bay, resulting in a Terrapins loss to open the conference schedule.

“We’re trying to figure it out on the go here,” Turgeon said. “It’s just kind of where we are.”

• Andy Kostka can be reached at akostka@washingtontimes.com.

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