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Bruno Fernando Stars In Terps' Win Vs. Jackson State

November 21, 2017
Maryland freshman forward Bruno Fernando had a game-high 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting, pulled down six rebounds and had three blocks in 22 minutes during the Terps' 76-45 win against Jackson State Nov. 20.

The 6-foot-10 Fernando once again showed off the size, strength, athleticism and soft hands that have made him a difference-maker on both ends of the court through five games, and head coach Mark Turgeon is impressed with how far he's come after missing time during the preseason with a high ankle sprain.

"I keep saying he missed about two and a half, three weeks of really important practice time, and for him to be doing what he's doing is pretty amazing," Turgeon said. "Showing great patience, he's playing with great confidence on the low block. And then defensively, he's just been off the charts. He's just covering a lot of ground and playing shots and he rebounded better tonight. It's coming fast. He's really playing well."

Fourteen of Fernando's points came in the first half, including seven of Maryland's first eight points. Fernando's first two baskets came with help from junior Ivan Bender, who started alongside Fernando in the frontcourt. Bender got Fernando started with a solid entry pass from the perimeter that gave Fernando a one-on-one opportunity on the low block for his first basket, and Bender again found Fernando down low for a layup one possession later.

Post touches for Fernando and senior center Michal Cekovsky have been an emphasis for the Terps this season.

"That was something last year that we missed sometimes in big games, is to be able to throw the ball in and get a bucket, and Bruno does that," sophomore Kevin Huerter said. "It's not all the time just a set play getting him a post on the block. A lot of times it's an offensive rebound he has or a broken-down play, a pick-and-roll where he's able to catch, make a couple dribbles and make a move."

Fernando employs a spin move that often leads to easy layups and a right hook shot for when he can set up deep on the right block. He can also finish alley-oops over a zone defense, like he did with Anthony Cowan against Jackson State. Fernando can sky well above the rim for blocks on the defensive end, too. Turgeon said Nov. 20 that Fernando is adept at peeling off his man late before hunting for a block.

Fernando played small forward for IMG Academy's post-graduate team last year, but he appears at home on the post for the Terps.

"… Even before I played in the perimeter last year, I used to play on the post a lot at Montverde Academy, my high school," Fernando said. "But I think that I'm most comfortable on the post, and that's one thing that the coaches know as well when they try to use me there as much as they can. I'm most comfortable there and I think that it fits my role."

SURPRISE ZONE: Jackson State showed a zone defense less than five minutes into the game Nov. 20, likely to limit Cowan's ability to penetrate the lane and create. The Tigers ended up playing a variety of defenses throughout the game, including man-to-man, a 2-3 zone, a 3-2 zone and, according to Turgeon, a half-court trap. At times, Jackson's State's zone appeared to morph into a 1-2-2 look.

Freshman guard Darryl Morsell was Turgeon's first choice to play in the middle of the Tigers' zone as the "point forward," but Morsell got hurt shortly thereafter. Jackson State went on a 6-0 run during a five-minute stretch in the first half as the Terps tried to adjust on the fly to the zone.

"It's hard, you can't call nine timeouts or whatever. You kind of let guys figure it out," Turgeon said. "I think once we were able to go in at halftime and talk about a couple things on the board and show them, we were just much better against the zone."

Turgeon started the second half with Cowan, Huerter, Fernando, Bender and Justin Jackson, who led a 13-2 run over the first four minutes of the second half. Three of the Terps' first four baskets of the second half came after offensive rebounds -- a good sign after Maryland struggled to take advantage of zone defenses on the boards last season.

"It's hard to play against zone," Fernando said. "We weren't expecting them to play zone that early in the game and they did. Hitting the boards and trying to get offensive rebounds is always the way."

HUERTER CUTS DOWN ON TURNOVERS: Huerter turned the ball over five times during wins against Butler Nov. 15 and Bucknell Nov. 18, but he only had one turnover against Jackson State. Huerter is a skilled passer, but may have been forcing some passes into tight windows against the Bulldogs and Bison. 

"Before the game [Nov. 20], about an hour before, I was watching every turnover I've had this year with [assistant coach Dustin Clark]," said Huerter, who has more responsibility as a playmaker this season than last. "We were going through how I could limit them and different plays I could've made, and so that was something I've got to definitely try to work on moving forward, but I think it was me just trying to pick my spots, finding where I can be aggressive, and I think I'll get better moving forward for sure."

NEXT UP: The Terps play St. Bonaventure Nov. 24 in the Emerald Coast Classic and then will face either TCU or New Mexico Nov. 25 in the tournament. Maryland then travels to Syracuse to face the Orange as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Nov. 27.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox