COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Chasing a bunch of quick, athletic players around the basketball court can be pretty tiring for a team with a half-dozen guys 6-foot-7 or taller.
Fortunately for Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, if one of his players gets weary, there’s always someone to replace him.
Taking advantage of a roster deep with height and talent, No. 7 Maryland launched a season of high hopes by defeating Holy Cross 95-71 Tuesday night.
Despite trailing early, the Terrapins forged ahead by 12 at halftime and won their 43rd consecutive home opener.
“It’s hard when we’re this big and tall to chase guys around, five guys that can shoot it,” Turgeon said. “Our depth finally got them.”
Maryland placed four players in double figures, finished with a 47-33 rebounding advantage and scored 64 points in the paint.
Jalen Smith had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Darryl Morsell scored 15, and Anthony Cowan Jr. and Eric Ayala added 12 points apiece.
The Terrapins returned seven players from a squad that went to the Sweet 16 last season and have added a pair of 6-foot-10 twins to the mix. Turgeon took full advantage, giving eight players at least 14 minutes of playing time.
“It’s nice, especially when the depth plays well,” Turgeon said. “And I think it’s just going to get better when the new guys get used to playing and get used to the speed of the college game.”
This team has a chance to be Turgeon’s best during his nine-year tenure at Maryland, but the Terps will have to prove it on the court.
Perhaps the clearest glimpse of this squad’s potential came in the final seconds of the first half. After Smith blocked a layup attempt, Cowan got hold of the loose ball and raced up court. He drove the lane and flipped the ball to Morsell, who capped the sequence with a powerful dunk.
“We played well,” said Cowan, a senior guard. “There were definitely some times where we weren’t getting enough stops or we weren’t doing the little things. But overall, I’m happy how we came out.”
Freshman guard Drew Lowder scored 24 for Holy Cross, playing its first game under coach Brett Nelson. The Crusaders took only five foul shots compared to 24 for Maryland.
“We had some moments where we were really good,” Nelson said. “I have a young group, so we’re learning. We’re going to be a lot different in January than we are in November.
“But I’ve got to give Maryland credit. They’ve got a heck of a ballclub. With the pieces they have, they’ve got a good chance to make a deep run in the tournament, for sure.”
Holy Cross trailed by just seven before Maryland went on a 16-4 run that made it 68-49. Smith and Ayala each had six points in the surge, and Cowan contributed a pair of free throws and a breakaway layup.
“This year could be a lot of fun if we just stay focused, stay selfless, keep getting better,” Turgeon said. “We’ve got a lot of talent.”
Maryland is 6-0 against Holy Cross in a series that began in 1971. The teams last met in 2008.
Perhaps one day, Nelson will be able to go nine deep on his roster. Until then, he’ll be stuck admiring teams like Maryland.
“They’re long, they’re athletic. They bring guys off the bench that are just as athletic,” Nelson said. “So from a rebounding standpoint, they really got us. And then the turnovers there in the first half led to runouts for them.”
Holy Cross: The Crusaders look as though they will benefit from working under Nelson, who spent the previous five years on the staff at Marquette. Holy Cross ran its offense well and hustled back on defense, qualities that should be helpful when conference play begins in the Patriot League.
Maryland: The Terrapins got off to a solid start by using their height, but the outside game needs work. Maryland was 5 for 27 from beyond the arc, missing 11 of 13 in the first half.
Holy Cross stays on the road, facing New Hampshire on Saturday before playing three straight at home.
Maryland hosts Rhode Island on Saturday night, the second of five straight home games to open the season. The Rams were 18-15 last season, 9-9 in the Atlantic 10.